Teach to Teach: Training Women to Teach Spanish

by Awamaki

Though most of their formal training is in teaching Spanish, the Spanish teachers are increasingly applying their language instruction skills to Quechua, their native language.


Awamaki’s own volunteers make up most of the demand for these classes so far. Quechua is much less widely spoken than Spanish, but still very common in homes and rural communities where the volunteers spend much of their time.


The teachers have begun offering beginning Quechua classes in conjunction with Spanish lessons. They see an opportunity to teach their native language and share their culture. Volunteers take the classes in order to communicate better with the women with whom Awamaki works. With a totally new and different sentence and grammatical structure to learn, learning Quechua is very difficult! But the students agree it adds a dimension to their visit that they would not have been able to experience otherwise.


Erika, who took Quechua classes for 3 years in the United States before coming to Peru to volunteer at Awamaki, explains, “I learned a tremendous amount of culture in my Quechua classes, both at school and here in Peru. You have to, because so much of the language is based in the things that Quechua people see and use every day.”


“I’m working with local women and sometimes you need to know some Quechua words to communicate with them,” explains Simone, a Sustainable Tourism volunteer who elected to take several Quechua classes to help her bring tourists to the weavers’ communities so they can learn about weaving and purchase directly from the weavers. “My job as a tour guide got a lot easier when I learned some key words in Quechua!”


Teaching Quechua is rewarding for the teachers as well. “I have to be creative because it is very different than teaching Spanish,” says Ruth. “was at first surprised so many volunteers wanted to learn it.” But, she says, she has always known how to speak it and so she can teach it to them. 

The instagram #wcw of Jenny.
The instagram #wcw of Jenny.

Jenny, a native of Ollantaytambo, has been a Spanish teacher with Awamaki since 2010. Surprising to those who have witnessed her natural knack for teaching, Jenny’s background is neither in Spanish nor in education. In fact, she studied in a culinary institute for several years in Cusco and then worked as a chef in restaurants throughout Peru. Jenny expresses that her favorite part about being a chef was meeting people from all over the world, hearing their stories and forming connections. 

This love for sharing in others’ experiences is what inspired Jenny to become a Spanish teacher with Awamaki.

"I thought this would be an interesting way to connect with tourists," Jenny explained, which was the part of her culinary career that she loved. On a more practical note, she states that the flexible hours guaranteed by being a Spanish teacher with Awamaki allow her to achieve a balance between work and family, something she highly values. 

When asked what her favorite part about teaching Spanish is, Jenny pauses and smiles softly, thinking for a moment. Then, she beams and says, “I love the beginning of classes with a student, because it creates friendship. It makes it easier to get to know people.” 

Recently, Awamaki chose Jenny for #WomenCrushWednesday, where Awamaki's amazing women get a spotlight each Wednesday. Former students on Facebook gushed about their teacher. Stacy Ridgley extolled, “Best Spanish teacher ever!” 

“Jenny. Mas mejor maestra de espanol,” wrote Lourdes Malave, exemplifying her Spanish chops honed by her teacher. “Hola Como esta su hija? Besos y brasos por ti y su familia.”

Jenny has indubitably impacted the lives of many during her time as a Spanish teacher with Awamaki. We thank her for sharing her bright spirit with us and inspiring countless to study the Spanish language.

Comment from Lourdes Malave on Facebook
Comment from Lourdes Malave on Facebook
Comment by Stacy Ridgley on Facebook
Comment by Stacy Ridgley on Facebook
Jenny starting classes at 9 am.
Jenny starting classes at 9 am.
Jenny loves to teach about Peruvian cuisine.
Jenny loves to teach about Peruvian cuisine.


Learning about fruits after a trip to the market
Learning about fruits after a trip to the market

Hello and happy Bonus Day!

Our teachers are kicking off the year with the brand-new Cultural Orientation classes.

Last year, you funded 20 capacity-building sessions with our teachers from July to October. With their instructors, Chrissy Ellison, the teachers designed five sessions. The women came up with the topics and figured out how to teach each while Chrissy helped develop the best practices for the classes.

Kasey, a brand new volunteer working in with our women’s fair trade artisan cooperatives, says the class was a great orientation to Ollantaytambo.

“This is very important to have when you arrive,” she said, “especially the personal connection with the teacher.” Kasey and other volunteers tell us that the relationships they forge with their teachers are crucial during their first weeks in Peru, since that can be a lonely and difficult time. 

Kasey’s teacher was Aby, and as part of her Cultural Orientation class, they visited the market and a local ruins site in the farm fields outside town. They also discussed homestay basics, like how to use the electrical showerheads that are ubiquitous here, and how to politely ask for more or less food at mealtimes. 

The teachers are pleased too. As of January, all new Awamaki volunteers take the sessions, and many of them like it so much that they sign up for more classes. Tourists also can take the class, since it is designed to be a standalone cultural orientation as well as the kickoff to more traditional classes. The teachers offer sessions in Ollantaytambo, Tourist Information, Typical Food, Quechua, and Homestay Preparation, giving both tourists and volunteers a good set of options for whatever their plans are while in town. The number of hours they are teaching has gone up, and we are excited to see the program grow in the year ahead! 

With a few months of teaching the Cultural Orientation under their belt, the teachers are looking ahead. They hope to work with Chrissy to improve their basic-level Spanish class so they can offer more options to potential students as their school’s reputation grows.

This bonus day, contribute to fund the next stage of teacher training to support the teachers and their growing business!

In the classroom
In the classroom


Aby teaching a student
Aby teaching a student

Today we want you to meet Aby! Aby is the newly-elected President of the association that the Spanish teachers have formed. Aby has been one of our most enthusiastic teachers from the start, and she has emerged as a leader since the teacehrs decided to form their own association so that they can learn to run their own business.

Aby is 29. Before becoming a Spanish teacher through Awamaki's training program, she juggled an assortment of jobs. Now, she spends the majority of her week teaching at Awamaki and fills the other hours of the week working as a receptionist at a small hotel.

Aby told us that teaching Spanish has has changed the way she looks at the world. Working with students from all over the world ignited her interest in traveling abrod. Now, on any given weekend, Aby is off exploring various corners of Peru. She dreams of one day traveling to China and Egypt. 

“I am grateful for the work through Awamaki because it provides me financial independence,” Aby says.

With the money that she earns from Awamaki, Aby has been able to set aside a portion of her Awamaki salary. She is saving to eventually purchase a home of her own, and maybe even a motorcycle--for her travels, of course!

Aby currently lives with her boyfriend in a nearby town. They are one of the few Peruvian couples that do not plan on raising children, but Aby says that she often thinks of her students as her kids.

At Awamaki, Aby’s students consistently name her as one of the most engaging and creative teachers. She is always the first teacher to volunteer to take on additional students. Her work ethic and commitment to her students are inspiring, which is why her fellow teachers chose her as their president. As president, Aby strongly advocates that the teachers plan and attend more workshops to improve their teaching skills. She says that personally, she hopes to one day be able to lead the workshops herself. 

At Awamaki, we use your donations to invest in the teachers' skills. We invest in their teaching skills, and also in their leadership and management skills, as Aby is demonstrating. By donating now, you can help Aby invest in her fellow teachers and improve the management of the cooperative, so that the women can run a successful business and earn a sustainable income. Thank you so much for your support!

Aby, left, and Roxana at a training session
Aby, left, and Roxana at a training session
Aby, with one of her students, Megan.
Aby, with one of her students, Megan.

Awamaki's Spanish teachers' cooperative is on its way to becoming an independent business. 

After all the capacity-building and teacher training that all of you have funded over the past year, the women are better teachers than ever. Business is growing: collectively, they have taught over 1400 hours so far this year--an increase of 30% over last year! They are earning money to take care of their families and save for their kids' education.

Our goal, with the Spanish teachers' cooperative and all of the women with whom we partner, is not just to help women make a living. While that is an important goal, and transformative for them and their communities, our bigger vision is to use our program like an incubator to help the women's associations with whom we partner learn to run their own business. We see a future in which they have clients that aren't us, and aren't dependent on Awamaki--or any one entity--for their business success. 

After introducing this idea to our artisan cooperatives over the course of the past year, we have just in the past few months broached this idea with our Spanish teachers cooperative. As one of our most ambitious and well-organized groups, they have been enthusiastic about learning to manage the Spanish school. 

But what does this mean? Well first, it meant registering their group in the Public Registry in Peru. They each gave a portion of their earnings for the registration fee (of which Awamaki, with your funds, paid half). They created bylaws and formalized their membership.

They have started compiling a shared library of resources. They asked Awamaki for storage space and a storage cabinet, and one of the teachers keeps the inventory of their teaching resources and student supplies. Whereas Awamaki staff used to hand out workbooks to new students, now the teachers manage the inventory of the workbooks. A few months ago, they even considered moving the cooperative out of our office and into their homes. They decided not to just yet, because they thought that their children would be a distraction if they were teaching from home. But we are really excited about their level of enthusiasm about learning to run the cooperative as their own business! 

There's lots of work left to do in the New Year, of course! The women have elected leadership, including a president, secretary and treasurer. The new president, Aby, is shown in the above picture. This next year, the new leaders will be working with Awamaki staff to learn the ins and outs of scheduling classes, creating invoices, managing payments, and ensuring quality standards. We have a ways to go, but we know that with your support, next year the cooperative will be able to take on more leadership and more responsibilities--thus ensuring a sustainable future for them and for their communities. Thank you for all your support making this happen!

 P.S.--We would love for you to be able to come and visit us, but we know that many of you live very far from Peru! Last month we invited our donors on a virtual visit to one of the more remote communities where we work. Check it out and get inspired to come and visit in the new year!

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Organization Information


Location: Ollantaytambo, Cusco - Peru
Website: http://www.awamaki.org/
Project Leader:
Mary Kennedy Leavens
Ollantaytambo, Cusco Peru
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