Learning How to Learn

April 17th, 2018
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Principal and first- and second-grade teacher Fermy with one of her students

Fermy, the principal and first- and second-grade teacher at El Rosario primary school recalls: “When CoEd came to ask if we would like to enter the Culture of Reading Program (CORP), I said: ‘Yes, I want to do it. I want to learn. I want to develop myself so that I never become stagnant.’”

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“I want to develop myself so that I never become stagnant,” says Fermy.

Until that point, Fermy had used the teaching skills she learned during her high school training—the only training that was required to become a Guatemalan primary school teacher until just a few years ago. “Give them a book and tell them to copy: that was reading,” she explains with a distinct note of frustration in her voice. “They would keep copying all year. But you can’t just copy—you have to find a way to learn. One can know that they are writing, but not know whether they are doing it well or poorly.”

Not only were Fermy’s students failing to learn to read through copying, they also struggled to overcome their fear of voicing their thoughts and being wrong, which posed a great barrier to learning. “Fear is something very personal,” says Fermy. “A teacher can say anything she wants, but if a student can’t let go of his fear, the teacher cannot break down that barrier for him.”

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Thanks to CORP, Fermy’s students are coming out of their shells.

CORP was the solution, Fermy says. The CORP activities her students participate in—such as acting out stories and even authoring their own stories—have naturally inspired them to let go of their fear as they become lost in the magic of learning. No longer do they shrink away when their teachers move to embrace them (a common expression of affection between teacher and student in Guatemala), or speak in voices barely above a whisper, like they did before CORP was introduced.

“The word corner, the books—they get excited!” Fermy says. “They even dance and sing when we bring out the puppet theater. And now when we read a story they continually ask, ‘What’s going to happen!? What’s going to happen!?’ And at the end they say: ‘Aaahhh!’”

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CORP teachers help their students let go of fear and embrace the joy of learning.

To ignite this passion for learning, Fermy explains, she had to learn the proper techniques, even when it came to a seemingly simple exercise like reading a book aloud: “As a teacher you have to know the right way to read a story. If you rush, without pausing, and without doing any movements when there are expressions of emotion in the book [the students become bored]. But if the book says, ‘Wow! It’s time to jump!’ and you jump—then the kids really pay attention!”

“I tell my students: ‘We are all capable if we simply have the desire to learn. But if we don’t want to learn, we will become stagnant. We learn, and we walk through life, and life teaches us.’”

Empowered by CORP, Fermy not only teaches her students how to read—she nourishes their natural curiosity and teaches them how to learn from life itself. It wouldn’t be possible without supporters like you!

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The Martyrs of Cantel

March 21st, 2018

This February, over 60 volunteers traveled to Guatemala on a Cooperative for Education tour to deliver textbooks, inaugurate computer centers, visit Culture of Reading Program classrooms, and meet or reunite with their Scholarship Program students. It was a life-changing experience that opened everyone’s minds and hearts.

For the Jenkins family, one experience stands out among the rest.

Six weeks before staff member Leslie joined the CoEd team, her aunt Beth passed away from cancer at 45 years old. Beth was an incredibly kind, highly intellectual, sassy, and adventurous person who was dear to the entire family. At that time Leslie’s father Dale knew that he wanted to memorialize his sister in a special way, but he didn’t yet know how.

Beth Jenkins Stubbings

Beth Jenkins Stubbings

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Margaret Amara on Returning to Her Daughter’s Birth Country

March 12th, 2018

Want to learn more about heritage travel? Join the webinar!


Last month, you read about Kelsey Amara’s travels back to Guatemala, the country of her birth. She made her first return trip with her parents Margaret and Mark in 2004 and her second as a solo journey in 2017. The Amaras were one of the first adoptive families to travel with Cooperative for Education, but there have been many more in the meantime. And now there’s a specific experience – the Heritage Tour – for families connected to Guatemala through adoption.

Some things never change:

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Kelsey bonding with CoEd staff in 2004…

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…and in 2017!

Below, check out Margaret’s perspective on returning to Guatemala!


Margaret Amara’s family journey with Guatemala started many years ago, but she always knew it would include returning to Guatemala. “When we chose the path of international adoption, we always knew we would someday take our daughter to visit her birth country,” says Margaret. The Amaras did their research, had many conversations as a family, and decided to return with their daughter, Kelsey, in 2004. “Our trip to Guatemala, when our daughter was 16, was the right age for her.” And traveling with Cooperative for Education was the right choice too because the tour was “very organized, comfortable, safe, and full of beautiful Guatemalan cultural experiences.”

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Becoming Servant Leaders

February 16th, 2018

Want to empower a student to become a leader in their community?

Sponsor a Student Read the rest of this entry »

Kelsey Amara on Returning to Guatemala

February 15th, 2018

Want to learn more about heritage travel? Join the webinar!


“How would I feel when, as an adult, I walked through that door?” This is the question that wouldn’t leave Kelsey Amara’s mind as she prepared to travel back to Guatemala, the country where she was born, on Cooperative for Education’s 2017 Heritage Tour.

“As an adoptee, going back to what might have been home to see the “what ifs” up close and personal filled me with nervous anticipation.”

Kelsey made her first return trip to Guatemala with her parents when she was 16 years old, travelling with Cooperative for Education (CoEd) on that occasion too. Both experiences were life-changing in their own way. Read the rest of this entry »

Mental Health Therapist Tisha Way Gaynor on Heritage Trips

February 9th, 2018

Here at Cooperative for Education (CoEd), we believe in connecting people across countries. We believe that encountering the diversity of humanity changes us for the better. It’s a big part of the reason we invite you to visit Guatemala on our project tours each year. The experience of being welcomed, asking questions, grasping hands, and laughing with the students, teachers, and family members you support is one that changes you deeply.

Last year, we offered our inaugural Heritage Tour as a way for individuals and families connected to Guatemala through adoption to reconnect to the country. Mental health therapist Tisha Way Gaynor joined us as an on-tour resource for those who wanted to talk through and process their experiences on the trip.

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From noon to 1pm (Eastern) on March 14th, Tisha will host a webinar for adoptive families who are interested in making heritage trips (to any country, not just Guatemala!). In anticipation, we’ve asked her to share some of her knowledge and experience about heritage trips here on the blog.

adoption heritage birth country travel Guatemala

adoption birth country heritage travel Guatemala

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Why do you #StandforGirls?

January 19th, 2018

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Hello all, and welcome to 2018—year three of the Thousand Girls Initiative!

We’re nearing the halfway point of our push to empower a new generation of educated Guatemalan women, and we’d like to step back to re-examine an essential question: WHY.

Why is education important to you? Why do you believe that all children—boys and girls—deserve to go to school?

Why do we—that is you and the entire CoEd family—invest time, energy, capital, sweat, and tears to make sure that more Guatemalan girls are in the classroom?

In other words, why do you #StandforGirls in Guatemala?

Throughout 2018, we’ll be sharing what you, our students, their families, their teachers, and our staff members have to say in response to this question. Read the rest of this entry »

What You Make Possible in Just One Week

November 16th, 2017

Sit back and listen to some good news! Our Director of International Programs, Katie Camillus, wants to give you a “taste” of all the exciting things that happen in Guatemala in a typical week, thanks to your support! These stories range from playful to powerful: you won’t want to miss them!

Kacie Baldwin: Leaving a Legacy in Guatemala

October 30th, 2017
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Kacie Baldwin with a bashful Culture of Reading Program (CORP) student.

The Moonlight Lawyer

Giving of herself is not new to Kacie Baldwin. In 2007, although she was already busy with a full-time job in IT, Kacie decided to go to law school and open her own private practice. She’s kept her job in IT, and now she moonlights as a lawyer, giving back to her community through estate planning, immigration law, and deportation defense. Too cool!

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You Outdid Yourselves at Fall Fiesta 2017!

October 23rd, 2017

Have you recovered from Fall Fiesta yet? We’re still reeling from the generosity and fun-loving spirit you showed at this event. Let’s reminisce about the top six highlights together, shall we?

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The venue, food, drink, prizes, and games were superb this year, as always. Cincinnati’s skyline glittered outside the Great American Ball Park as you laughed with friends old and new, sipped some spirits, won everything from bottles of wine to trips to Africa and the Cayman Islands, and dined sumptuously on a full dinner.

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We love it when you laugh with us.

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