Having impact as an English teacher volunteer
Our passionate, hardworking English teacher volunteer coordinator, Gracia, answers our questions after working with us for a year. Read about her experience with us and get an insider look into our work with volunteers from around the world who are all contributing to our overall impact on the community of Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala.
Q&A with Gracia:
One, Two…Tree!: Thanks for speaking with us, Gracia! To give our readers some context, can you explain a bit more about your role with us as Volunteer Coordinator?
Gracia: Yes! I’d love to share my experience with you. I worked with One, Two… Tree! for a year as the volunteer coordinator, which meant that I was introducing people to the organization and recruiting them to come to Santiago Atitlán as teachers.
The challenging part about restarting the project in the middle of the pandemic was finding ways to adapt to changing schedules and other situations that were limiting our normal work in public schools. Besides recruiting volunteers, I was also a teacher, and since I am an ESL teacher, I helped build the curriculum for our adults’ beginner level. I also helped develop the Coffee Terminology course we created for our friends at CoAtitlán. As coordinator, I was also consistently searching for opportunities to expand our impact and reach through connections with other initiatives in the community.
One, Two…Tree!: What impact have you seen One, Two…Tree! have in the community of Santiago Atitlán?
Gracia: I have seen our work positively impact the students in their return to school after more than 2 years of distance learning. Public schools just recently started gradually returning to teach in person this year, and both students and teachers have told us how motivating it is to receive classes on a new subject that is difficult and taught in a different way, since we plan our lessons with dynamic activities and hand out fun worksheets as homework, which is not the usual methodology for other subjects.
I’ve also seen our impact on our young and adult students. Some of them were telling me stories of how they started learning English years ago with teachers Gary and Gergana (previous One, Two… Tree! teachers), and when they saw the posters I was handing out around town about the reopening of our lessons last year, they felt happy and immediately decided they were joining again. I am proud to see them now going from beginner to intermediate level, being able to have better job opportunities, connect with other people, and hopefully even teach English to children or share what they know with their peers.
One, Two…Tree!: What was your biggest accomplishment during your time with One, Two…Tree!?
Gracia: I feel really proud about how we approached the challenges of working with irregular schedules from the public school system due to the changing restrictions and limited human resources. This year, opening our Learning Center in Santiago has been an amazing learning bridge, as it gave us a closer approach to the community, which helped us solidify our classes for adults with a better retention rate than previous groups. It is a nice way for volunteers to connect with other young people and make local friends. In the future, we may be able to go back to full work focused in public school and may not need the center, but for now, this was my biggest achievement because it was the best way to maximize our impact despite the limitations we were facing. Our students and friends from the community are beyond happy with this project and they openly have told us so.
One, Two…Tree!: What would you like people to know about One, Two…Tree!?
Gracia: That it is a rewarding experience, you learn a lot and have the opportunity to join a team where you can share your ideas, work with your heart, and contribute to education. Seeing children motivated about school again and happy about English classes makes you feel inspired. That’s our driving force; that’s why we feel excited about planning creative lessons and looking for ways to improve.
One, Two…Tree!: What would you like volunteers to know about working with One, Two…Tree!?
Gracia: This is the perfect program for committed people who want to invest some of their time, energy, and creativity in education. It is a great way to gain new skills, train to be a future tutor or teacher, and improve your Spanish! We work for about 20 hours every week, but we also know of many different fun activities around the lake, and have connections with projects where you can can learn about nature and the local culture.
One, Two…Tree!: What is your hope for the future of the organization?
Gracia: I hope to see One, Two… Tree! replicating the projects we did this year, expanding our collaboration locally, strengthening the team through local teachers (our students who could hopefully join our volunteer force in the future by teaching for a few hours), and growing in Central America and Mexico.
One, Two…Tree!: What was your favorite part of working with One, Two…Tree!?
Gracia: Doing what I love: teaching. Also, working to make English more accessible through creative teaching methods, working with other motivated and knowledgeable volunteers like Dani, Gersom and Carmela, amongst others, who were committed and passionate in their contributions to our work in Santiago. I’m going back to Guatemala City after a year, to continue my studies and get more experience in my field, which is Psychology, but in the future, I certainly want to volunteer with One, Two… Tree! again.
One, Two…Tree!: Thank you so much for all of your hard work, passion, and commitment, Gracia!
If you would like to join our team as an English Teacher Volunteer, please email us here: firstname.lastname@example.org