A Glimpse into Guatemala with Sarah

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Sarah is an energetic, respected P.E. teacher in Barrington School District 220. Last year, she connected with Lauren and Ilona, colleagues who had both volunteered on multiple Ingage teams before. The three teachers chatted at recess duty, and a seed was planted in Sarah’s mind that got her thinking about joining an Ingage team. In college, Sarah had done volunteer work but had never travelled internationally in order to volunteer her time for the betterment of others. Though she felt at first that she may not have much to share as a P.E. teacher during the education workshop sessions, she decided to take the leap and join the Guatemala team this past summer.

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In Guatemala, she had the opportunity to get to know the Guatemalan culture, provide four days of workshops to local teachers as well as serve and provide resources for Chiquimula, a small impoverished town centered in an area within a garbage dump. In the community, she shared in prayer walks that gave her goosebumps, being able to see how faith based and community oriented the neighbor was. 

Sarah bravely paired with other teachers on her team to share resources with the Guatemalan teachers about social-emotional learning. She found herself empowered sharing these resources because she had doubted her possible contributions before the trip. She also learned from her other team members that taught about math and reading. She plans on implementing what she learned from them in her PE classroom this school year, connecting physical education and movement with math and reading content. 

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Sarah shared a story with me in which she was empowered by the connections across cultures and across languages that her team was able to make in Guatemala. In a lesson about coping skills and deep breathing, the team shared a strategy with teachers where they practiced “smelling the birthday cake and blowing out the candles” to represent the steps to of how to correctly breath and calm yourself down. The Guatemalan teachers suggested a different scenario which connected to them more closely on a cultural level. They suggested, “smell the hot food and blow on it to cool it down”. Ingage members welcomed this connection and collaboration, encouraging teachers at the workshop to practice with their newly created phrase. Sarah found that someone was always willing to share and collaborate in these environments made possible by Ingage. She felt that the overpowering theme in the room was all being invited to come and learn and “grow with us”. Not only did Guatemalan teachers grow, but Ingage members grew as well, learning from community members and those involved in the workshops. For Sarah, seeing teachers across the world sharing similar struggles and wanting to work together to find solutions in order to benefit their students was truly inspiring. 

Coming into the new school year, Sarah is bringing the community based perspective from Guatemala into her teaching. She is encouraging students to put group needs first and to think about the collective whole. She is teaching with a strong focus on compassion and empathy which is an overarching take-away that I have experienced and heard from all of the Ingage team members I have gotten to know and shared experiences with. She would also like to continue growing in her Spanish language skills as she learned much from connecting with new friends in Guatemala and would like to help her connect with some of her students.

Joining an Ingage team empowers those from all professions and backgrounds, that may not think they would have anything to offer, with the opportunity to share, collaborate, connect and learn on a cultural, professional and personal level. 

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Emily