As you daydream about what your life might be like teaching in a little rural community off in a foreign land, it’s likely that hundreds of questions are popping into your mind. Everything from what it would be like serving as a missionary, how it feels to live in a small, tight-knit volunteer community to what your daily job tasks will look like, it is hard to get a true understanding without getting to know some folks that have walked on the path ahead of you.
Since it isn’t exactly easy to just throw out these questions into the unknown and get the answers or advice you need, we decided it might be helpful to go directly to the source. Below, you will meet some of the wonderful teaching staff at El Camino Bilingual School, a mix between recent graduates, teachers with a few years of experience raising their own children at Loma de Luz and retirees with decades of classroom time under their belts.
If you have been searching for missionary teaching positions, or Christian volunteer opportunities in Honduras, you have probably read numerous articles that tell you that working in the mission field is rewarding, difficult, enriching and challenging. While this is all true, getting a glimpse into what life is actually like here at Loma de Luz may just be the real information that you need to feel confident in meeting this need.
So, without further adieu, here are the answers to the first 10 of 20 questions we asked about volunteer teaching in Honduras at El Camino Bilingual School. We hope that these responses from our dedicated, amazing staff provide some insight on how life is at our little school on the edge of the jungle.
#1 What led you to search opportunities for volunteer teaching in Honduras?
“My husband and I had always felt called to missions together. We originally came for him to work at the hospital. We are in Honduras because we feel very strongly that this is where the Lord has us for now.” – Katie, 4th Grade Teacher
“I actually heard about El Camino from my university. They have a newsletter for their education majors and someone who lives in my state sent an email to universities in the state with teaching and medical programs. The information about El Camino was sent in their newsletter and as soon as I looked at the website, I knew I was interested in coming here.” – Angela, 6th Grade Teacher
“I’ve been a member of the Board of Directors of the Cornerstone Foundation for 14 years and have known about El Camino School since the beginning.” – Linda, 1st Grade Teacher
“In college I had the opportunity to travel to Latin America and specifically Honduras many times. I immediately was drawn to the Honduran people and culture. When my graduation was approaching I started looking for opportunities to teach in a Spanish speaking country.” Reagan, 3rd Grade Teacher
“My nephew and his family were here already and told me of the need for teachers, so I responded to the need through them.” – Sharman, 5th Grade Teacher
#2 What was your biggest challenge in finding the right Honduras teaching position?
“I think one of the biggest challenges would be a lack of knowledge to make an informed opinion. Since most people do not visit or tour the school they serve at before they come down, it is difficult to know the atmosphere and characteristics of the school. Knowing these factors are beneficial in making an informed and confident choice in which school is the right choice to teach at. “ – Angela, 6th Grade Teacher
#3 Were you actively seeking a mission teaching position in Honduras?
“No” – Katie, 4th Grade Teacher
“While I was considering teaching internationally, and was already planning on student teaching internationally, I was not sure I wanted to teach internationally and had never considered teaching in Honduras.” – Angela, 6th Grade Teacher
“Yes” – Reagan, 3rd Grade Teacher
“Yes, I had retired from teaching over 30 years in the USA and now with social security, so I could go on the mission field without raising lots of support.” – Sharman, 5th Grade Teacher
#4 What does your typical day as a volunteer teacher in Honduras look like?
“My day might look different than some since I am also a mother to four small girls and a wife to a husband who works full time in the hospital. I start my day at 4:45 am to pray, walk, make breakfast, and get my girls and myself ready for the school day. We leave the house at 7 am and are at school until 3 pm every day. My days are filled with teaching and tutoring students.” – Katie, 4th Grade Teacher
“My typical day looks a lot like a typical day for a teacher in the United States, except I get to go home for lunch with my family.” – Teresa, 1st Grade Teacher
“I get to school and the students are all excited for the day to start. They are seated on benches outside of the classroom and one by one they come and say “Good morning” and I ask them how they are. Then I ask them what they are going to do today. They respond to these questions in English, and then they go into the classroom and play with play-doh while waiting for their classmates to enter. Since I teach Kindergarten, we talk about the calendar, numbers, and letters. We also work on writing and talk about the Bible stories. The students always seem to enjoy class. We also have recess, snack, and then water and rest time, but they don’t like the rest time as much. After class, I make sure all of the students get on the bus or picked up, and then I start working on some of my additional school responsibilities.” – Kathryn, Kindergarten Teacher
“On Mondays-Thursdays I get up at 5:30 am and head to school at 6:30 am. At 7 am I head to the entrance of the school and give high-fives, hugs, and “good mornings” to the 120 sweet students in our school. Then I teach from 7:30-2pm. After school, I will normally stay and tutor or prep until about 4 pm. Then I go home and relax for a bit. Every night I have something different going on, whether it be dinner with friends, Bible study, or doing an activity at the children’s center. On Fridays, I sleep in and go to school when I want to. Fridays I use to finish any grading from the week and the prep resources for the next week. Saturdays I go to La Ceiba for my groceries, and on Sunday I go to church, relax, and hang out with my friends.” – Angela, 6th Grade Teacher
“7 am arrival, greet each child individually then continue with a typical kindergarten day until 12:15. The difference is that it is an immersion ESL class and often the language barrier makes following directions or understand a concept in English a little tricky.” – Linda, 1st Grade Teacher
“Something I love about teaching here is the mix of a meaningful routine and a slow pace of life. I normally get to school before 7:00 am. My kids enter my room around 7:30 and such begins my favorite time of the day, teaching and learning from them. Classes, for older grades like mine, end at 2:00 and I stay with my kids until they are all picked up. I wrap up my work, grade papers and check on my planning for the following days of class. The evenings here hold different things; bible study, community prayer, sharing meals with friends and reading with kids at our sanctuary home. Then I fall into bed and it begins again the next morning.” Reagan, 3rd Grade Teacher
#5 When you decided to volunteer, how did you choose a project that you were passionate about?
“We attended the GMHC in Kentucky and found LDL there.” – Katie, 4th Grade Teacher
“I knew I wanted to be teaching, so my husband and I were seeking out opportunities that needed teachers and engineers. El Camino and Loma de Luz needed us, and we felt at home here.” – Teresa, 1st Grade Teacher
“I didn’t. I was just trying to follow where I thought God was leading me. I have since found that I love the students and love doing what I’m doing where I am.” – Kathryn, Kindergarten Teacher
“Knowing the vision and heart behind the school, which I could feel from the website, was an important aspect in my decision to volunteer here.” – Angela, 6th Grade Teacher
“I found retirement was not for me. I missed the classroom and wanted to return to teaching overseas, but positions that paid did not accept folks, regardless of how qualified, over the age of 62-65. So, the mission field was the only openly accessible route to return to teaching as a volunteer. I call this season of teaching at El Camino m,y ENCORE year. Doing what I do best, teaching, just on a different stage.” – Sharman, 5th Grade Teacher
#6 Why does El Camino Bilingual School need your help?
“El Camino is desperately in need of trained and certified teachers who love Jesus and have a passion to teach and love the kids in our school.” – Katie, 4th Grade Teacher
“El Camino is seeing awesome growth in our students now that we are in our second year of having a fully licensed teaching staff. It has been amazing to see our students excel in this setting. Now, don’t get me wrong. We need licensed teachers, but we also need assistants. People willing to tutor, play with kids at recess/PE, administrative assistance, even a school nurse.” – Teresa, 1st Grade Teacher
“We have about 120 wonderful students who are eager to learn. However, we have only about 12 adults who teach AND work in administration.” – Kathryn, Kindergarten Teacher
“Since we have added a year each year since the beginning, we find ourselves short of teachers and with a turnover that is difficult to manage.” – Linda, 1st Grade Teacher
“El Camino needs me for my skills, my education, my English, my passion, my faith, and my dedication. I am a trained and certified educator and a first language English speaker. These two things as well as my faith and God’s specific calling on my heart to be here make me perfect for this position.” – Reagan, 3rd Grade Teacher
“El Camino is now in the position to recruit and retain certified teachers, instead of just warm bodies. That means that professionals, whether first-year college graduates or folks who have teaching experience are able to bring their talent, skill, and expertise to the school. As the students are mostly ESL and still young enough to not have the foundations for conversational English it is imperative that El Camino teachers have an understanding of seeing the big picture that they are part of the process developing learners that may not be realized until they hit the 4th or 5th grade, when their English will be solidified that they are no longer either learning new vocabulary or before speaking or writing have to translate back and forth from Spanish to English and vice-versa. Therefore, the more handhold and teaching in phonics someone can have would be greatly appreciated. Hondurans are hard working folks and these kids are worth the investment not only into their lives, family, community but also their country!” – Sharman, 5th Grade Teacher
#7 What has been your highlight so far about exploring Honduras?
“My highlight in exploring has been the faces of my four girls as they experience new things. I love exploring Honduras with them.” – Katie, 4th Grade Teacher
“My family has enjoyed traveling around Honduras. We have traveled just to visit new places, and we have traveled to Copan Ruinas for language school. Copan was a great experience for us. We learned a lot about the culture and history of Honduras, as well as gained a better understanding of the language and how to speak it.” – Teresa, 1st Grade Teacher
“I love the people and the laid-back culture. Also, the green mountains against the blue sea and sky are beautiful!” – Kathryn, Kindergarten Teacher
“Honduras has such a beautiful, diverse array of habitats. I love that there are so many different ways you can enjoy nature here, whether it going for hikes to view the sunset, swimming in the waterfalls, relaxing at the beach, or snorkeling at the nearby islands.” – Angela, 6th Grade Teacher
“My husband and I have enjoyed Roatan, but would like to see and explore the other islands as well.” – Linda, 1st Grade Teacher
“Living here has taught me to walk in independence and freedom. Learning to navigate the language, culture and many subcultures here has made me flexible and diverse. I’ve done so many things I never dreamed I would as a result of living here like riding a motorcycle, hiking Machu Picchu with friends I met here, diving into waterfalls and loving people deeper than I knew I could.” – Reagan, 3rd Grade Teacher
#8 Advice to someone for why they should experience volunteer teaching?
“It will stretch and grow you in ways you never thought possible. It will teach you so much about yourself and about the world. You will experience so much Jesus.” – Katie, 4th Grade Teacher
“Volunteer teaching is a wonderful experience. You really get to enjoy your job. It has been refreshing to me and given me a new passion for teaching. It’s never been about the paycheck, but when you are volunteering you really get an understanding as to why you are teaching/want to teach.” – Teresa, 1st Grade Teacher
“You learn a lot about trusting God and clarify a lot about yourself: your values, perspectives, biases, and beliefs. And the children are a delight to work with! Their hugs always brighten my day.” – Kathryn, Kindergarten Teacher
“Children are much the same everywhere, but teaching in a Christian mission school gives one the opportunity to teach a Christian worldview that would never be presented, to be part of establishing the Kingdom of God in Honduras and to serve the Lord in a unique way using the talents He has given me. We are opening doors for children that are beyond anything they could have believed.” – Linda, 1st Grade Teacher
#9 What was your previous background?
“I had graduated from undergrad and completed my student teaching. I had taught abstinence education classes for two years in public schools, substitute taught for two years and taught exercise classes to preschool kids. My undergrad degree was to teach high school Spanish.” – Katie, 4th Grade Teacher
“I moved here with my Bachelors in Elementary Education. After college, I spent six years in an Early Childhood setting as a teacher and administrator. I also had experience in Title 1 teaching, which has been invaluable to my time here so far.” – Teresa, 1st Grade Teacher
“B.S. in Geography and 9 years working in the mapping industry. About 1 year as a grocery store cashier.” – Kathryn, Kindergarten Teacher
“Special Education – Mentally Handicapped, Grades 1-10 in Christian private schools, Substitute teaching Pre K – 12. I have been involved in education one way or another for 46 years.” – Linda, 1st Grade Teacher
“I graduated university in December of 2016 so the 2017-2018 school year at El Camino was my first year teaching. I had countless experiences in schools, even a bilingual school during my student teaching.” – Reagan, 3rd Grade Teacher
#10 What do you feel are the 2 most important traits for your position?
“Flexibility. Dedication. Love for Jesus. Love for kids. I know that’s four and you said two!” – Katie, 4th Grade Teacher
“You need to love kids and love Jesus. Without those things, your days could be very trying here.” – Teresa, 1st Grade Teacher
“Flexibility & patience” – Kathryn, Kindergarten Teacher
“A driven heart that is faithfully invested their position, as well as the purpose and need for their role. Strong work ethic, including a willingness to give and serve in whatever way is needed or beneficial at that moment.” – Angela, 6th Grade Teacher
“Flexibility and flexibility.” – Linda, 1st Grade Teacher
“Professionalism and faith. This job requires you to be well trained and capable to teach as well as maintain a classroom. Faith being the most important. I don’t know what the future for my students holds but I want to finish each day knowing they heard me talk about Jesus and His rich love for them.” – Reagan, 3rd Grade Teacher
Part 3 coming soon!
Stay tuned for Part 3, where our teachers answer 10 more questions about life as a volunteer teacher in Honduras and some of the most surprising and rewarding aspects about their time in the mission field. To find out more, learn about other areas of our Christian charitable organization and current missionary positions available.