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COEHD graduates have partnered with Manos de Dios to teach English remotely. Today's UTSA | UTSA

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In 2014, the group launched an after-school ESL program Club Intercambio..

In 2019, Perea Martha Sidley Christiansen, UTSA Associate Professor, Exploring the possibility of collaboration with universities. The pair considered various ways in which students could participate, such as making the site an option for apprentices. Partnerships seemed even more essential when the COVID-19 pandemic occurred.

“The pandemic has infused all these new ideas and new ways to do things,” he said. John Panther,volunteer Manos de Dios.. “Currently, having international options in remote areas seemed like a great advantage not only for UTSA but also for Honduras students.”

After connecting with Henderson John TurnbullA UTSA PhD student in Culture, Literacy, and Language, the work has begun to be properly placed.

“”[It was] The perfect storm in the right way – it all happened very quickly when we put all the right people in the right room with the right skill set, “said Perea.

Eight students, including Turnbull, are currently attending an optional virtual lesson on WhatsApp, an app that allows users to send text messages, make voice and video calls. So far, Henderson has stated that the program is popular with students.

“The students who are currently attending are praising their experiences and relationships with the students in Honduras,” she said.

About 30 students are divided into two groups in Honduras. One is for beginners and the other is for intermediate English students. Four to five of these students are assigned to each UTSA graduate student. They give one hour lessons every Saturday, but the content is generally up to the student’s teacher, who are encouraged to use technology to complement the lessons and show off their world. increase. For example, for weather lessons, students can incorporate photos and videos of their environment. Thus, Turnbull says that experience is not only about language learning, but also about the exposure of both groups to different cultures.

“It’s one of the strongest parts of collaboration,” he said. “In a sense, students in Honduras are beginners and beginners in English, but they are experts in their culture and can convey it better than anyone else.”

Henderson says this view of both teachers and students as knowledge-providing learners is consistent with the pedagogical foundation of the master’s program itself.But more than that, she believes in the whole Manos The partnership is in good harmony with the Faculty of Education and Human Development’s vision statement of “training agents for cultural and linguistically sensitive change.”

“Collaboration has a huge number of benefits for students,” says Henderson. “They not only have the skills and practice, but also have cultural interactions and interactions that can improve the other skills we want our students to have.”

Partnerships have an educational impact on both students and student teachers, but Perea says ESL teachers in Honduras are benefiting as well.

“”[Because of] Through collaboration with UTSA and the guidance of graduate students, they are learning the technique, “she said. “They are also developing their own professional skills.”

But perhaps the biggest long-term impact of the partnership is in the community since Danli. According to Perea, the ultimate goal of their scholarships and ESL programs is to improve their quality of life and increase the opportunities available to people living in Honduras.

“These kids are as smart and motivated as the kids in other parts of the world,” she said. “They only need an opportunity.”

However, many of those students may decide that such an opportunity is elsewhere. The US Census Bureau and the US State Department estimate that 10-15% of Honduras’ population currently lives in the United States.

By expanding the opportunities and resources available locally, less students may need to make such tragic and often dangerous decisions, he says. Jeff Parten,volunteer Manos de Dios..

“If these kids leave Honduras, this is a potential future intellectual infrastructure,” he explained. “Part of what we’re trying to do here is to nurture that infrastructure and give it opportunities in our own country, and they’ll be forced to go elsewhere.”

Achieving such a goal is not easy. Even in the early stages, this collaboration has challenged students and teachers alike.

“Learners and teachers must be willing to take risks. You must leave your comfort zone as a teacher,” Turnbull said. “You are very vulnerable as a teacher and teach at a distance of 2,000 miles, and I think your students probably feel that way. This is a very new model of interaction for them.”

However, despite these challenges, Henderson states that the development of communication tools such as WhatsApp has played a major role in making projects like these feasible.

“WhatsApp is the most notable tool in the world today in a way that the community can access. This wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago, no way,” Henderson said.

In the future, she hopes to make this program sustainable, a core element of the university’s ESL-5073 course, and a TESL practice site.

“Once relationships are built, these types of collaborations can lead to new, innovative and exciting directions that people may not even be able to anticipate,” she said.