Magical Classroom

by Lets Be Ready
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Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom

With a contagious sense of joy, well-being and humility about her, Claudia has a disposition that seems tailor-made for early childhood education. She believes in education because she knows that through it, she can develop her community and help her country. But above all, it’s her immense love of kids that fuels her to work as a Magical Classroom teacher and coordinator. Claudia teaches and coordinates 10 classrooms in the region of Retalhuleu, supporting her peers to strengthen their own classrooms and move their communities forward, especially by working with parents: an aspect of Magical Classroom that Claudia has found to be integral to the kids’ success.

Claudia is one of 5 children, with two older siblings and two younger siblings. Her mother never had much work, and sells food and tortillas to support her children. Though her mother only completed the 2nd grade, education is highly valued in Claudia’s family, as they know it’s the key to creating opportunities in the future. Through working with her mom and receiving support from scholarships, Claudia was able to study to become a teacher. She was connected with Magical Classroom in 2016, and is extremely grateful for the opportunity to follow her passion, continuing to learn and grow as an educator and coordinator. Last year Claudia taught 15 students, who are now all in primary school. Their teachers say they are far more prepared than the other students, which is extremely rewarding for Claudia to hear, and motivates her to work with other communities and help the program to expand, supporting as many kids as possible.

During her first year as a teacher, Claudia quickly realized parental involvement is essential for the success of the kids. She goes to each student's’ house to invite the parents to come to meetings, in order to see the location of the classroom, learn more about the program, and get involved by helping with activities and learning how to work with their kids at home. If the parents aren’t motivated to help their kids learn, then their attendance rate drops, and they don’t do as well in class. So, Claudia wants to help parents see their kids’ capabilities from a young age, and realize that they can accomplish their dreams and contribute to better opportunities for everyone in the country. Not only is Claudia inspired by witnessing the daily growth and development of her students, but she also finds great excitement in helping parents get involved and participate in activities- she knows the progress of the students and the engagement of the parents are inseparable. As a coordinator, she hopes to support her peers by helping them to work with the parents, because in new communities it can be difficult to generate support from families. More than anything, Claudia wants to help her peers stay in contact with the parents, and will support them in this way however they need- undoubtedly, with a huge smile on her face all the while.

It is for educators like Claudia, Astrid, and Arcadio that Magical Classroom lives up to its name, and continues to thrive and grow: their resilience, compassion, and commitment to having a positive impact on their communities from the youngest members up is truly inspirational.

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Deeply passionate about education, Astrid has dreamed of being a teacher since she was a little girl. As regional coordinator of 6 preschool classrooms in San Juan La Laguna, and embarking on her 4th year as a teacher for Aula Magica (teaching preschool from the library in San Juan, her community), one could say with certainty that her dream has come true. However, for much of her childhood, Astrid’s chances of becoming an educator seemed slim: from ages 11-13, Astrid had to quit school to help support her family financially. For two years she yearned to return to school, her desire to study taking precedence over everything else. Astrid values education so highly that she hasn’t left the classroom since: because of her past, Astrid gives all that she has to her job as a teacher.

Astrid spent the first 5 years of her life with her parents, before her world shifted. Her father (an alcoholic) left the family, and her mother remarried. Astrid moved in with her grandparents, who’d had 9 kids of their own. Of the nine, only three went to school. Astrid’s mother was one of the three, having completed the 6th grade- an uncommon accomplishment in rural areas of Guatemala. Astrid feels immense gratitude for her grandparents, who gave her all they could: her values, and the opportunity to get an education. Now 75 and 73 years old, they treat her as a daughter, rather than a granddaughter, and Astrid wants nothing more than to be able to reciprocate the care and support they gave her. Still, Astrid felt a sense of lack throughout her childhood, seeing families with kids and full lives and longing for those experiences. When she had to quit school at age 11 to in order help provide her family with extra income, she was heartbroken. Astrid worked daily making textiles and picking coffee, making 15 Quetzales ($2) per textile- a craft learned from her grandmother, and the family’s main means of income. She was embarrassed to not be in school, and had no friends, only leaving her home on Sundays. So when the municipality’s government gave Astrid’s mother a small grant and Astrid was able to return to school at age 13, she did so with a renewed sense of hope, motivation and gratitude. Astrid knows that it was due to the support of many that she was able to graduate with a specialty in teaching, and wants to return the gift to her community; aspiring that all may feel the enthusiasm she feels for learning, and the opportunities that come from it. She carries not an ounce of bitterness from her past, only appreciation; she even hopes to one day reconnect with her father and share her gratitude and positive outlook with him.

For Astrid, the most important thing she can teach her students is that education is fun. To this end, we have to teach in a way that’s fun... so kids want to go to school, and have a desire to learn everything: this, Astrid says, is every teacher’s job. It’s also Astrid’s specialty: she creates a dynamic classroom that’s full of energy, teaching with love and patience to build the best education possible for her students. She seeks to share these values with her peers, so that they too can build successful classrooms and a culture of enthusiasm. Astrid also sees great value in the classroom games played with recycled materials, geared towards developing the minds of her students. She wants to make these games so accessible that they’re played by children in communities all over Guatemala, developing their minds while playing. Because for Astrid, learning and fun are one and the same: she teaches with joy and enthusiasm, motivated by her past to shape bright futures. 

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            Arcadio believes education is the key to developing social and communal strength. He sees education as one of the most important pillars of the human experience: the way by which communities are empowered, and people realize their ability to contribute to positive change. Arcadio knows he can deeply affect his community through education, helping to develop that which is missing, and contributing to a wave of empowerment. He knows the reality of many living in rural areas, sharing in the collective struggle of those who have dreams to receive an education without the means to accomplish them. But Arcadio also knows dreams can become a reality- his story a testament to what is possible when you believe in yourself and have a positive mentality, refusing to yield to the barriers in your way.

            One of nine children, Arcadio’s family has always struggled economically. Arcadio had to leave school after the 3rd grade to help contribute to the family’s income, working with his father to sell vegetables beginning at age ten. He did so until he was sixteen years old, when he began working in agriculture. Arcadio recalls these childhood years of work with neither resentment nor sadness- doing what needed to be done to support his family, Arcadio assumed he’d never be able to prioritize his education. At age eighteen, he joined a youth group in the local church, actively participating and sharing his opinions. He was soon asked to coordinate the group, studying theology with other members of the municipality. When a friend involved with youth development invited Arcadio to join a training on human rights, civic participation and sociopolitical participation, Arcadio was quick to accept. At one point during the training, he was asked what his education level was, and felt uneasy about disclosing the truth to a group comprised of professionals, teachers, and university students who had all gone beyond the 3rd grade, unlike himself. A colleague in the same situation proposed that they study together, and Arcadio soon began taking classes for adults at an education center through La Sagrada Familia de Chiantla. His schedule was difficult: Arcadio continued to work Monday through Friday from 4:30 in the morning to 7:30 at night, listening to lessons over the radio at 8:30 each night and going to the center on weekends to take classes. In spite of being ridiculed and told he was too old by many, Arcadio persevered for one and a half years, and completed 6th grade at age 21.

            Though he hadn’t initially planned to go beyond 6th grade, Arcadio’s connections in the education center motivated him to continue with el basico (middle school equivalent). For five years, Arcadio continued to work in agriculture on weekdays, studying on nights and weekends. He barely had enough money for classes and transportation, and had no money left over for food when he went to the center on weekends, waiting until he returned home to eat. But thanks to his father supporting him with what little he could, Arcadio finished 3rd basico at age 26. He then returned to working in agriculture, assuming his studies were completed. However, by the end of the year’s harvest, Arcadio had made enough money to begin studying again the following year. He entered school in the field of primary education, attending classes from 7:30 to 12:30 on weekdays, supported by his father and brothers. In October, 2013, at age 31, Arcadio graduated as a primary school teacher. Upon graduating, the head of the program asked if anyone was interested in going to university. Arcadio said yes, as it was a dream of his, but he figured he’d never be able to attend due to finances. When his evaluation was good enough to enroll at the University of San Carlos, Arcadio wasn’t very excited, because he knew he couldn’t afford to attend.

            In the meantime, Arcadio was coordinating a theater group that performed for human rights initiatives, informing the public about sexual health and HIV. Performing nationally, Arcadio made connections with activists in other municipalities, and was recruited to work with a Women's’ Empowerment project in Chiantla and Aguacatán, called Mujeres Empoderadas. Arcadio initially worked with 5 groups of 20 women each, and by the end of his three years with Mujeres Empoderadas, was a trainer of 15 groups: working with 300 women total and discussing human rights, women's’ rights, and teaching entrepreneurial activities such as cosmetics and candle making. When the project ended in September, 2016, Arcadio had saved enough money to begin attended university. He briefly returned to agricultural work to help his brothers, and was connected with Aula Magica in January of 2017, receiving the opportunity to become a teacher and coordinator.

            Arcadio attends university classes and does work-study in the mornings, and teaches in the afternoons. He hopes to have a degree in teaching secondary school by next year, and dreams of studying an additional two years to receive a license in education. He is closer than he ever thought he would be, and seeks to contribute to education in Guatemala to help create the change he knows his country is capable of. For all of his work in empowerment, Arcadio sees the importance of self-support, and realizing one's’ own capabilities. He hopes to support his peers in this way as a coordinator, working as a team to help prepare kids for success. Arcadio says the most important impact he can have on his students is to help them discover their different abilities: because we all have something to discover through education, we just need the opportunity. 

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From the 20th-24th of February, 23 bright and eager teachers from rural areas all over Guatemala gathered with the Magical Classroom curriculum development and administrative team for an intensive training, learning the method to the magic of each classroom. Taking place in a retreat center in the wilderness, the setting was conducive to an extremely successful training: by the last day, the teachers had not only learned extensively about how to create the most high-quality and enjoyable education for their students, but bonded and found a group cohesion as well. The training covered all of the lessons and activities that form the content of the schools, from learning to identify the date and count attendance as a group, to reading stories, playing games, and listening to pre-recorded materials. Teachers also discussed strategies to handle any challenges that might arise with their students, as well as the importance and implementation of nutritional programs. Everyone was given the opportunity to practice leading activities, and trainers did a fantastic job of encouraging questions and interactive sessions to assure that time at the training was utilized in the most beneficial way possible.

 

Displays were posted on the walls of the center, demonstrating how simple materials can be used to create uplifted and educational classroom decorations. Teachers also had one-on-one and small group meetings with the administrative team, clarifying their roles and responsibilities as Magical Classroom participants. Tablets were distributed to everyone, containing the lesson plans and content for the year, and equipping teachers with the ability to take pictures of their classroom and students in action! Benchmarks and goals for the students’ growth were discussed, contributing to the teachers’ foresight of where their classrooms should be by the end of the program. Cooking together, sharing meals, playing games and learning in a way that was both engaging and fun, the training made for an unforgettable and extremely effective start to the 2017 year of classes. We can’t wait to see the magic that lies ahead, knowing the teachers are well-prepared, enthusiastic and ready to go!


Contributed by Drew: intern from Boulder, Colorado- excited and grateful to get to witness these highly important projects that are nourishing youngsters all over Guatemala!

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Demand for preschool is high in rural communities
Demand for preschool is high in rural communities

This month our project was featured in the latest edition of the popular Que Pasa magazine. Here's what we had to say about our mission in Guatemala...

                                                                             *     *     *

Did you know that more than half of Guatemalan children don’t begin school until the ripe old age of seven? By that point, children are already at the tail-end of their formative years for cognitive growth, making their ability to integrate into an educational environment and quickly process information a daunting task. In 2015, 27% of Guatemalan children either failed or gave up schooling entirely after the first grade. We know that children are far more likely to have success in the first grade (and later grades) if they have access to preschool education, so why aren’t there more kids enrolled?

For one, there simply aren’t that many graduated preschool teachers living in rural communities. Without locally sourced teachers or salaries that can justify traveling long-distances to reach rural children, too many communities find themselves at a perpetual educational and developmental disadvantage.

After years of curriculum development and on-the-ground experience, the twin non-profits of Let’s Be Ready and Magical Classroom have created a model designed to overcome these issues and ensure access to quality preschool education in even the most rural and inaccessible communities throughout the country. Through cooperation with partners both local and international, Magical Classroom and Let’s Be Ready will provide free, quality preschool education to 600+ students whom otherwise would have had to wait until first grade to begin school, in 40+ classrooms spread throughout five departments. The goal is to lead a movement towards eradicating the preschool deficit in Guatemala in hopes of forming brighter minds capable of leading towards an even brighter future. With a model that has proven to be both effective and affordable, our mission is to partner with NGOs, foundations and other concerned stakeholders to improve and replicate our program in as many underserved communities as possible. The movement towards universal preschool coverage in Guatemala is already happening, the question is: will you be a part of it?

If you or your organization is interested in supporting or partnering to eradicate the preschool deficit in Guatemala, please write MagicalClassroomGT@gmail.com today.

Meeting with parents in Huehuetenango
Meeting with parents in Huehuetenango
Lucy Diaz sharing with some sharp alumni in Huehue
Lucy Diaz sharing with some sharp alumni in Huehue
Mothers in Reu jostling to enroll their children
Mothers in Reu jostling to enroll their children

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Lets Be Ready

Location: Longmont, CO - USA
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Project Leader:
Fred Zambroski
Longmont, CO United States
$66,394 raised of $1,000,000 goal
 
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