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All the Knowledge Comes from Them

Written by Lucía Dávila, Guatemala City, Guatemala

So here I am with a group of Americans in a Guatemalan surf community, eating Italian pizza and discussing global education. Can you count how many cultures are involved in our lunch?


Image of five people sitting around a table in a hut by the beach

Members of the Teachers2Teachers-International team relax over lunch in El Paredón, Guatemala


Last month, T2T-I had the opportunity to return to the community of El Paredón, Escuintla, on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. Our team of six was excited to connect with the teachers and follow up with more professional development workshops.

Two of our team members had already visited the community in January, but for the rest of us everything was new. Let me be honest for a second, I am a proud Guatemalan aware of the cultural richness of my country; however, I’d never imagined we had a surf community within our borders.

I thought surfing was an Australian thing that had nothing to do with us. As it turns outs, I couldn’t be more wrong.

We were able to experience not only the characteristic warmth of the people living in El Paredón, but also the beauty of the natural landscape offered by Guatemala’s Pacific Coast. From footprints on black sand to a boat trip through the mangroves, we enjoyed many spectacular sights.


Activities in El Paredón

Walking on the beach at sunset, enjoying time around the table, boating through mangroves

Culturally Relevant Workshops

Because this was our second collaboration, the local teachers were familiar with our goals and schedule for the day. We worked with the pre-K and elementary teachers during the morning and with the middle school teachers during the afternoon.

We started with a relationship-building activity led by Katie Dutko, T2T-I Director of Education Programs. This allowed us to create connections and encouraged trust among the group. Next, Katie presented a workshop on contextualizing math problems, appreciating open questions, and finding different solutions to the same problem.


Teachers workshops El Paredón Guatemala

Workshops on math education with the teachers at El Paredón


Tim Quiroz, T2T-I team member, facilitated an activity using concrete, representational, and abstract sequences of instruction, while Chadd McGlone, T2T-I Executive Director, contributed with math patterns and the concepts behind them.

All the activities were supported by the use of games and manipulatives in a cultural context, while the teachers were encouraged to use sound mathematical reasoning to justify their thinking. Kelley O’Brien, T2T-I Associate Director, and Mary Ollila, T2T-I team member, joined in the activities to learn alongside the teachers.

Given that El Paredón is a seaside community, we explored numbers related to fishing.

Maybe T2T-I provided the overall structure of the task, but the knowledge came from the local teachers, who provided information about the different kinds of fish, prices, and appropriate terminology. We developed some engaging math activities and learned a lot about mathematics.


collage 5

Snapshots from two sessions of professional development

Teachers’ Feedback

During our feedback sessions, the local teachers expressed not only their gratitude but also what they had learned during the workshops. We were surprised and glad to hear answers involving more than math. Some examples were as follows:

  • “The kids will learn how to work in teams.”
  • “We are showing them to respect each other.”
  • “The students will know how to socialize.”
  • “The little kids will start to understand the dynamics of taking turns.”

We finished our work by giving professional development certificates to the teachers. Some of them even took extra certificates home! The teachers were so interested and eager to learn that some of them stayed throughout all the workshops, even ones pertaining to grades they didn’t teach. A teacher found the day so helpful that she asked us if she could bring colleagues from her district to the next one. Hopefully, we will be able to see new faces on our next visit!


collage 7

Proud participants display their well-earned certificates


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