“Honduras is, in my opinion, a very misunderstood country,” says Cloé Brügger ’15, a tenth grade English teacher in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. “It’s one of the murder capitals of the world and there’s a significant amount of gang violence. But, I always say, that isn’t my Honduras.”
As a student in the Redeemer Education program, Brügger taught in Honduras for her three-week practicum placement, gaining practical experience in a classroom and working alongside experienced teachers. In their final semester, students have the option of completing the last segment of their 110 days of practicum abroad at Christian schools in Honduras and Nicaragua with which Redeemer has developed relationships.
Brügger now teaches at one of the two Christian bilingual schools in Honduras’s capital. “I have no doubt in my mind that the reason I am here at this school is because it is my calling,” says Brügger. “I distinctly remember that when I was down here student teaching, Dr. Teeuwsen came to visit and observe our classes. I can point to the exact spot right outside our cancha [soccer field] where I was walking with him and telling him about how much I like this school. He stopped, put his hand on my shoulder, looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to come teach here, aren’t you?’ I was floored. I had barely even admitted to myself how much I wanted to work here. I certainly hadn’t talked to anyone else about it. But there was something in the way that I was talking about this place that made him see my calling.”
Education program alumna Catherine McGeorge ’17 has also felt called to teach in Honduras. She followed her three-week practicum with a move to Honduras in August 2017. She now teaches grades 1 and 2 at a bilingual Christian school in Siguatepeque, a city surrounded by mountains in the centre of Honduras. “When I first came to Honduras, I was extremely nervous,” McGeorge recalls. “But I knew that this was where God wanted me to be. The longer I’ve been here, the less scary things have become. There are beautiful places to hike and explore. The more Spanish I learn, the more confident I feel. I’ve developed some incredible relationships over the last five months that I am so grateful for.”
Brügger and McGeorge have both found a great deal of hope in their work — and in their faith. “When I teach, I know that I am representing Christ,” McGeorge reflects. “I am discipling students! A few weeks ago, I had students ask me why God allows earthquakes and why God put the tree in the garden of Eden. Those are big questions for grade 2 students!”
“I always try and show my kids how much God loves them through how I love them and God’s grace through how I treat them.”
But it can be difficult to maintain that hope in a country that typically isn’t portrayed positively to the rest of the world. “I made a rule when I first started travelling here,” says Brügger, “that I would not google it because I did not want to be influenced by the way the news is presented.” Each week, Brügger and McGeorge face every teacher’s hurdles — distracted classrooms, arguments between students and late and incomplete work — accompanied by a language barrier and the realities of an extremely high crime rate. “It can be challenging to teach here,” McGeorge admits. “The majority of my co-workers and the parents of my students do not speak English. This can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings, which can be frustrating. We also don’t have technology in the classroom.” McGeorge, though, has a positive spin. “I find that working here challenges me to be more resourceful and creative. I am definitely learning patience!”
A Christian education at Redeemer helped to shape the way that Brügger and McGeorge respond to their environment and to the children they teach each day. “I always try and show my kids how much God loves them through how I love them and God’s grace through how I treat them,” says Brügger. “I know that I can never truly treat my students the same way God would, but I have made it my goal to show my students his love through my own actions.” A hopeful response for a country where hope is perceived to be lacking.