They are tougher than you could imagine, and they all share a quality that teachers should encourage: they love to learn.
When I first joined my university’s chapter of Students Helping Honduras, I had no idea that my involvement would steer the course of my life the way it did. Freshman me could not have predicted I would volunteer three times in Honduras, spend late nights making cookies for countless bake sales, and walk for hours around the Lexington community canning, all while doing it alongside friends who share the same passion and determination. I could not have guessed how much I would learn about what it means to be a volunteer, to be a sidekick for Honduras, and how much the fight for ending extreme poverty and violence through education would become a part of my own mission. And I certainly did not imagine myself standing in a classroom of the Villa Soleada Bilingual School teaching. It was on my second service trip – my junior year – that I first considered teaching. SHH had become so, so special to me and ever since my first trip, I felt the desire to do more. I wanted to dedicate more than a week’s time to an organization that was an integral part of my college experience. By the time my senior year was in full swing in the fall, I knew that upon graduation, I wouldn’t be finished with SHH’s mission. So while my peers started attending career fairs with the intention to land full-time engineering positions, I began applying for volunteer teaching positions to give back for the privilege of education I was granted.
In August 2017, after graduating, I became Ms. Hannah of 5th grade at the Villa Soleada Bilingual School. It was the most challenging year I ever faced. Our team of volunteers were all 1st year teachers, totally new to the experience of having our very own classroom of students: it was intimidating. I was learning to be a teacher while teaching. I struggled with behavior management and lesson planning while confronting frequent bouts of self-doubt: Was this lesson confusing? Should I have done this instead of that? Am I doing enough for my students? I spent hours after school trying to work through my lessons and prepare for class, not yet balancing my work and personal life. We had lots of setbacks the first semester, some beyond our control. Fortunately we all formed a close bond through these difficulties, supporting and encouraging one another. Teaching is not a sole but a team effort where everyone understands our students’ education is important. With everyone’s gracious help for which I am so thankful, I steadily improved in teaching and developed more confidence.
Of course, I wouldn’t be a teacher without my students: my brilliant, curious, and determined students. For every moment of frustration I had as a growing teacher, there were instances of laughter erupting and proud smiles illuminating our faces. No two students are the same, each placing their own special mark on the classroom, and on me. I learned fast that my responsibility to these students extended beyond “teach-and-learn”. Making sure they got their lunches, that they felt safe and were being safe, and that they knew they are loved. I love my students. I spent a year with them in the classroom, and I know they are students worth teaching. They are tougher than you could imagine, and they all share a quality that teachers should encourage: they love to learn. And for the rest of my life, I will be cheering them on throughout their education journey; because they are the ones who will change the future of Honduras.
Miss Hannah taught 5th grade at the Villa Soleada Bilingual School during the 2017-2018 school year. She graduated from the University of Kentucky ’17 majoring in Materials Engineering.