Rabun Gap faculty serve in Honduras

Rabun Gap — Three Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School faculty members traveled this summer alongside a local mission team to share their expertise in education and minister to the people of Honduras.

Head of the Upper School Dr. Erika Farr, Associate Head for Academic Affairs David Landis, and middle school teacher Maribel Aguirre spent a week in Honduras visiting schools and interacting with Honduran teachers and students. The trio joined a local mission team from Clarkesville United Methodist Church and Nacoochee Methodist Church, and they were lead by Christ-centered missions organization HOI, Inc. (formerly Honduras Outreach Inc). For nearly three decades the Georgia-based organization HOI has been following God’s call to strengthen communities in Honduras and Nicaragua through long-term partnerships. The organization runs two schools, Instituto Esperanza (Hope Middle School) and Escuela Aldersgate (Aldersgate Elementary School).

The mission team spent the week at HOI’s Rancho Paraiso in the Agalta Valley of Honduras. Farr, Landis, and Aguirre engaged with faculty and administrators at Instituto Esperanza and were there to help determine the feasibility of HOI opening a high school. They will develop a report of recommendations and reflections to deliver to HOI by the end of July.

The Rabun Gap team worked closely with the HOI education team, fostering numerous in-depth discussions about teaching practices, challenges, and aspirations. On their last day in Honduras, the Rabun Gap faculty met with the entire faculty at Instituto Esperanza to discuss particular topics including approaches to effectively teaching students with different aptitudes and educational backgrounds, tactics for creating engaging, student-centered classroom environments, and opportunities to grow and learn as teachers by sharing ideas and good practice with each other.

In addition to their work with HOI, the group also visited two, small one-room government-sponsored village schools that served students in grades 1-6, and a government-sponsored seventh-twelfth grade high school with 700 students. They also met with district minister of education in San Esteban, the district seat near the Ranch, and the mayor of San Esteban.

For Landis, the trip was a chance to return to the country where his teaching career began.

Landis and his wife spent a year living and teaching in northern Honduras early in their marriage, and Landis said returning to Honduras was a valuable experience. He is excited about the connection between HOI at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School.

“This is a partnership with great potential. Our team gained valuable perspective as we learned about the Honduran educational system, and our efforts to share our best practices with HOI faculty reinforced our understanding of what makes Rabun Gap a remarkable school,” he said. “We learned that relationships, between teachers and students, between faculty struggling to ensure every students learns, between government officials and school administrators, between American and Honduras — are our best pathway to building a better future for tomorrow’s leaders, home and abroad.”

Farr and Aguirre were inspired by interacting with the Honduran teachers.

“I was awed by the commitment and creativity of the many educators I met in Honduras, who despite lacking critical resources and support, find effective ways to improve the lives and future of their students,” Farr said. “It was an honor and an inspiration to be welcomed into the community and into the schools. They welcomed us in with enthusiasm and excitement, spending hours that they certainly didn’t have to spare with us grappling with difficult problems and explaining their own teaching lives and conditions in wonderful detail.”

“It was a blessing to me to have been part of the collaboration experience with the Honduran teachers at the Instituto Esperanza as well as the other government schools we had the opportunity to visit,” Aguirre said.  “My heart was greatly touched to see the commitment of the teachers and staff given their limited resources and daily challenges.”

HOI board member and former HOI Executive Director, Sue Church, was the group’s primary contact and liaison for the trip. Farr called her commitment and dedication to the Honduran people and the importance of education an inspiration.

HOI also sponsors Rabun Gap student Ronal Murillo ’23 of San Esteban, who will start his second year at the Niles Bolton Middle School next year. Farr, Landis, and Aguirre had the chance to meet up with Murillo during their time in Honduras.