As an organization, we have had many experiences in El Salvador that have shown us the need to help educators and schools there, whether it has been seeing kids out of school for days at a time because of teacher absenteeism or first-hand experience of overcrowded and underfunded classrooms.
The first time I was moved to consider the need was when I met a teacher named Orlando. He was a teacher that should have been set up for success: He had been educated in the States, cared deeply about his students, and had even started multiple programs at his school to help youth. He had a big smile, and an even bigger desire to help his students. One day after his classes, he showed me the one book he had to teach his English classes, which was a used copy, too advanced for the grades he taught. Orlando's otherwise cheery smile would dim when he talked about the many obstacles he faced as a teacher, which included a lack of funding for programs he wanted to implement and a lack of basic classroom resources for the subjects he taught. Imagine teaching a literature class with no literature to give to your students. My team members all have similar stories, and we share together the burden this has placed on our hearts.
When I first met Orlando, I didn't know that the next year we'd be starting an elementary school at our headquarters in Tennessee, or that I'd be teaching there. I had no idea that God was going to open up an opportunity for several individuals on our team to gain important skills and competencies in the field of education. When I walked out of Orlando's classroom, I just knew I wanted to help. God always has plans that surpass our best imaginings.
I wasn’t the only person who was surprised. Just weeks after spending the majority of the year in El Salvador, teaching in the local school and tutoring students, Betsy Johnson was given the position of Principal at the Academy for G.O.D. As one of the teachers she works with, I would say there is no better person for the job. She has been a tireless force at the Academy. We often joke about the 3am emails you are likely to get from Betsy, but, like most jokes, it reveals an important truth: Betsy has been indomitably faithful in her work at the Academy.
Like myself, Betsy has had various experiences in the education system in El Salvador. She continues to carry those experiences with her. Amid the difficulties and challenges of starting a school, Betsy never lost sight of how the paradigm set at the Academy for G.O.D. could be a model for the students in need around the world, whether it be El Salvador or Uganda. This is something Betsy talks about often, encouraging her teaching staff to utilize creativity and innovation in producing a model that can be transferred to a third world environment.
Through our work at the local school in El Salvador, and a drama conference we offered this winter to teachers in the area, the teachers in El Salvador are requesting that help now. They are eager to learn how to better manage a classroom, how to make the most of what supplies they do have, how to keep students from dropping out, and more. We are sending them our best, our principal! As the Lord would have it, Orlando is the very man who has helped us set up these seminars!
Beginning this year, we will offer teachers seminars three times a year, free of charge. The first will happen in July! Betsy, along with team member Lavinia Fernandez, will facilitate a seminar on “How to Teach English.” This has been an ongoing request that they’ve had, and we are happy to formally prepare a seminar for them, which will expose them to new methodology when it comes to language learning and acquisition.
With the help of donors and local businesses, we are hoping to offer this training free of charge. Teachers will be introduced to new techniques that they will be able to implement in the classroom, and ways for them to continue to learn English themselves! That’s not all! During the week, we will join several of the teachers in their classrooms, observing and demonstrating some of the methods taught in the seminar. Also, each teacher that attends the seminar, will receive a teacher resource bag filled with the basic supplies that all teachers deserve and need, but that they don’t often have. We are happy to train and bless them in this way!
Though we have always assisted as we are able, we are looking forward to this more formal and specific opportunity to train teachers. Please pray for Betsy as she facilitates this time, beginning July 9th. If you want to help meet this important need, click the button below!