Irma García, an agent of change

Irma García, a preschool teacher and Common Hope university scholarship recipient, pauses with a student at the end of a recent school day.

Para leer en español, haga click aqui.

Back in the 90’s, Irma García’s father served as a mason during the construction of Common Hope’s Antigua site. Little did he know that more than ten years later, his daughter would be a high school graduate, a winner of a competitive university scholarship, and a teacher at a local NGO.

Irma García, 21, graduated from high school in 2008 with a degree in teaching. Now, she is studying pedagogy with a competitive university scholarship from Common Hope. In her second year, Irma is very motivated by the scholarship program. “We have to report our grades and keep our average up,” she says. “They are expecting more from us as students, and that helps show us that we can do it.”

In addition to attending university, Irma works as a preschool teacher for an organization called Let’s Be Ready. Founded by Fred Zambroski, a former Common Hope volunteer, Let’s Be Ready promotes interactive preschool curriculum that prepares children for first grade. Before the organization opened its school in Hermano Pedro, the village had no pre-school, and children still must walk down to the neighboring village of Santa Ana to attend elementary school.

Irma learned about Let’s Be Ready through the university scholarship program. Students must complete a certain number of volunteer hours, and because of Irma’s training as a teacher, Let’s Be Ready seemed like the best fit. After volunteering for a time, she was offered a permanent position as a teacher.

At the end of a recent school day, Irma sat down with Guatemala Communications Coordinator Caroline McGee to talk about school, her work, and the importance of early childhood education.

Why is early stimulation important for children before they enter 1st grade?
Just like you have to take care of and water a growing plant, it’s the same with young kids. [Kids] are like sponges — you have to start exercising their motor skills and socialize them from an early age. We try to awaken their imagination so that once they are in primary school they talk more and have their own opinions about things.

What made you want to be a teacher?
My mom always motivated me — I think she always wanted to see one of her children become a teacher. When I was younger I would play with my cousins and I would always play the part of the teacher. I also like the idea of being able to help the community.

What plans do you have for the future (after graduating from college)?
I have always dreamt of being able to direct a school or an organization that works [to promote] education.

Irma says goodbye to two preschool students at the end of the school day.

Tell me about the work you do in the community to get support for the pre-school.
The community gives a lot of support to the program. I try to involve the parents and community leaders. The community leaders helped build cubbies for storage space, and they helped us fix the roof and the floor. The parents help collect donations. They found us some first aid kits for the classroom. They all collaborate a lot with the activities.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
The biggest challenges come from the parents. Many parents think that just because the school is small and new that it’s not as good as other schools. That’s why I try to include them [in activities], to show them how we work. Another problem is that the parents are sometimes very closed — they are used to kids waiting to enter school until they are seven years old. We have to show them that it’s better to get them in school at an earlier age.

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7 Responses to Irma García, an agent of change

  1. Claudia de Maldonado March 17, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    I am amazed of the work that Common Hope does in Guatemala. I know that through education, children can reach their dreams and break the cycle of poverty. I thank God for every one who helps these children and like Irma Garcia, many others will be “agents of change” not only for their own lives but for their communities. I was sponsored all my life by generous people from the US and I am a registered nurse graduated from the prestigious St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, US and now I am supporting my husband to finish his education.

  2. katel March 17, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    Thank you for the kind words, Claudia. Your story is an inspiration as well!

  3. ron merlekelly March 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm #

    To Irma, Keep up the good work. We appreciate all that you are doing. Teaching is a fun career as the students eyes light up when they are learning something that they enjoy. From a retired teacher. Merle Kelly

  4. katel March 22, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    Thanks much for your perspective, Merle! I hope all is well with you and Ron.

  5. fred zambroski March 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Thank you for puting the spotlight on Irma. She has been an exceptional teacher for us. I love to take visitors to her school because she always has such interesting activities and is so well prepared.
    Thanks again.

    • katel March 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

      Sure thing, Fred. Thank you for the great work you make possible!

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