International

Guatemala Project
By Kathy Davin

Kathy Davin, (GWRC),
with Felipa Lux Batten,

Are you looking for a way to combine adventure, travel, and community service next summer? Are you interested in learning about the culture of your Central American students, sharing your expertise, and exploring new and innovative teaching methods along with colleagues from across the U.S and Central America? Consider joining us for the annual Reading Week of teacher training in Guatemala, sponsored by Helps International and supported by the GWRC. The training will take place in July, 2019*. Cost to participants will be approximately $1200, inclusive of flights and in-country meals, transportation, and accommodations. Participation is open to all teachers and graduate level education students. Fluency in Spanish is not required. Please contact Kathy Davin if you would like more information. kdavin@earthlink.net. (*Specific dates will be posted on this web site in January).

2018 Trip

Two GWRC educators pose “under the arch” in Antigua, Guatemala.

Paticipants this year included Jen O’Looney (Prince William County), Nadya Abu-Rish (Fairfax County), Lisa Weiss (Loudoun County), Mercedes Oetgen, Luisa Quintanilla, and Kathy Davin (all formerly of Arlington County).

En route to the village, the group visited the famous market of Chichicastenango. The team then spent four intense days in Sta. Avelina, working with children in the mornings, coaching teachers in the afternoons, eating traditional dishes prepared by local women at mid-day, and sleeping on cots in the classrooms at night. The visiting team treated the local teachers to an impromptu Fourth of July celebration featuring hot dogs, potato salad, watermelon and lemonade. The last day, the local teachers and visiting team visited a vocational education program in a neighboring village. On the return trip, the group spent time in colonial Antigua, Guatemala, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The theme for July’s workshop was Formative Evaluation, moving towards differentiated learning and targeted small group instruction delivered through guided reading lessons. A priority for the program is supporting beginning reading instruction in the local Mayan language (Ixil). With support from the visiting team, local teachers wrote lessons for seven newly published books and developed a kindergarten through second grade scope and sequence for the 53 books for beginning readers now available in Ixil. Teachers in the intermediate grades explored the many supplemental resources available through the Reading A-Z/RazKids subscription provided by GWRC.

Beginning in 2011, the Greater Washington Reading Council has co-sponsored a literacy project in the rural highlands of Guatemala. GWRC provides partial funding for the purchase of materials for guided reading instruction. GWRC members are invited to join a group of educators every July for a week of on-site teacher training in best practices for literacy instruction. The focus is on first language literacy and vocabulary development in the second language. The US teachers spend the mornings observing and coaching in the classrooms and the afternoons conducting workshops and helping local teachers plan instruction. Fluency in Spanish is desirable but not required. The coordinator of the project is Kathy Davin. (kdavin@earthlink.net)

Before the 1996 Peace Accords, students who attended school in the Ixil region of Guatemala were immersed in Spanish from the minute they entered the building. There was no instruction in the home language. Few learned to read. Life in this region was impacted by the Civil War. Families exist on subsistence agriculture and earn a little cash by pooling together the coffee they grow and selling it through a cooperative. The outside world is making inroads in this region of Guatemala with the introduction of improved highway access, dam construction, radio, cell phones, etc. Literacy is essential to the survival and well being of these communities. Literacy is best introduced in the language of the home.

The Centro Educativo William Botnan is a Kindergarten - sixth grade primary school located in the village of Santa Avelina, municipality of San Juan Cotzal, department of Quiche, Guatemala. The language is Ixil, one of 23 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala. The school was built by and is partially funded by the non-governmental organization HELPS International (www.helpsintl.org). The teachers at the school in Santa Avelina have worked with a team of multi-national educators to establish a program of bilingual literacy. The goal is to introduce literacy in the home language, Ixil, and transition to literacy in Spanish by the end of sixth grade using a 90/10 model (90% home language instruction/10% Spanish instruction in Pre-Primaria, or kindergarten, transitioning to the reverse by grade six).

HELPS envisons "Hub" schools that successfully implement a well-designed learning program to serve as teacher learning centers and technology resource centers for surrounding schools. The school in Santa Avelina serves as an educational headquarters for the Ixil Region and as a model for expansion of educational initiatives throughout Guatemala.

GWRC members at the waterfall in Sta. Avelina.
GWRC members at the waterfall in Sta. Avelina.
Students work on a writing assignment on the front steps of the school.
Students work on a writing assignment on the front steps of the school.
Erin Kowalevicz, of Arlington Public Schools, working with first graders.
Erin Kowalevicz, of Arlington Public Schools, working with first graders.
Fourth grade classroom served as a women's dormitory for the week!
Fourth grade classroom served as a women's dormitory for the week!
Antigua, Guatemala, where the team spent the last two nights of the trip.
Antigua, Guatemala, where the team spent the last two nights of the trip.