Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Matt, a teacher-in-training who has traveled extensively, most notably to volunteer in Honduras. Matt, tell us about your background.
Matt: My name is Matthew Wolfert. I am 23-years old, and I am completing my final year as an Elementary Education major with minors in ESL and Music at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
This January I plan to student teach in Milwaukee, Wisconsin through the University of Wisconsin System’s Institute of Urban Education. While teaching, I plan to incorporate many things I have learned about other cultures, as well as my own culture and self as a person from my past travels.
My travels include going to Japan, Turkey, and Honduras, and backpacking through 9 countries throughout Europe solo. In addition, I took part in a foreign-exchange program while I was in high school and spent part of my senior year in Kaiserslautern, Germany. I am fortunate to have found multiple traveling experiences so early in my life, and I thrive for many more to find me in the future.
TT: Awesome! Tell us about your experience volunteering in Honduras.
M: Once I applied the last stroke of yellow paint to the school’s mural, I stepped back and looked at a week’s worth of service. At last the mural was finished, and it looked great! Not only was the mural colorful artwork for community members to look at, it also gave momentum to providing youth a more positive future.
In March of 2013, I traveled with a group of about 10 other people from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh to El Progreso, Honduras to volunteer with the non-profit organization, Organization for Youth Empowerment. For countless hours, we helped create a mural that would leave an everlasting impact on a Honduran community. Yet, as big an impact as the mural left on Hondurans, I believe my service left a bigger impact on myself.
While volunteering, I learned that the school I was painting a mural for is one of the only schools in El Progreso that accepts hearing-impaired students. At first I did not think anything different about the school and the fact that some of the students are deaf.
However, while talking to teachers at the school I learned shocking news about the Honduran government and school system. Although it is mandatory for all children to attend school in Honduras, the Honduran government either does not support schools, or it only funds schools minimally.
As a result, schools have no resources to purchase classroom supplies or pay its teachers. In fact, some teachers that I interviewed had not yet received paychecks for at least the past six or more months’ worth of work! Unfortunately, due to a lack of resources, schools have began closing their doors to many students, especially the students who are disabled and/or who come from very low socio-economic statuses.
It is a privilege to receive an education in Honduras. In a short week, I was able to witness many students and families working hard for everything they have and for families to provide the best future for their children.
Actually, many of the adults I encountered in Honduras had some focus on the country’s youth. For example, the dedication and passion teachers have for the youth of Honduras is immaculate.
Although teachers have not been compensated for past months of work, they still teach every day to their best abilities. When asked why, the teachers responded saying it was for the country. One teacher stated, “The students are our future. If we really want change and a better Honduras, we need our children to grow up with the power to give us that.”
After traveling to Honduras I was fully charged with inspiration to teach America’s youth. My passion to teach inner-city students is partly due to volunteering in Honduras.
In some aspects, I feel that inner-city youth are sometimes faced with similar conditions as youth in Honduras: living with heightened levels of crime, drugs, gangs, having fewer resources, and less inspiration to be their best.
Like the teachers I met in Honduras, I am dedicated and passionate to give my students the best education I can, not only because they deserve it, but also because we have the ability to give youth power to change the world.
TT: Thanks, Matt! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English from Boston who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs AroundTheWorld L.com Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational cartoons. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!