Visit turns teachers into students

Bainbridge hosts trio of educators from Ometepe.

For a trio of Nicaraguan teachers, the whole of Bainbridge is a school for the next six weeks.

Lucybeth Morgan Cruz, Darlin Mairena and Yissell Potoy are visiting here for six weeks to improve English skills to better teach their students, in a trip sponsored by the Bainbridge Ometepe Sister Island Association.

Now in the second week of their stay, the three visited Eagle Harbor High School and Commodore multi-age classrooms Thursday.

“The education is so different,” Potoy said. “For me, my impression of Bainbridge Island is very modern because the younger children learn to read and they like to read so much.”

The three say Nicaraguan teaching methods favor students taking notes from lectures, because the schools have few books.

Another difference the teachers point to is the energy that animates American education.

“You manage your time, you are very applied,” Mairena said. “We think it is for that reason the country is prospering. We aren’t accustomed to being punctual and organized.”

Nancy Quitslund, visit coordinator and a BOSIA trustee who has has visited Ometepe for extended stays, notes that long-time social conditions that include lack of such infrastructure as phones and public transportation may well have made planning and punctuality difficult.

Potoy, Mairena and Cruz have all pursued educational opportunities in Nicaragua.

Cruz and Potoy graduated from colleges there; Mairena will attend college, starting a course of study in February 2005, with a scholarship provided by sales of Ometepe coffee imported by BOSIA.

Potoy, Mairena and Cruz, who are being hosted by Bainbridge families on a rotating basis, have found a warm welcome here, they say – although this past week’s snows were a shock.

Ometepe’s temperature rarely dips below 75 degrees; it was a sultry 95 on Tuesday while a winter storm pummeled Bainbridge.

“Of course I like it here,” said Cruz, who wore a scarf around her neck in the Commodore classroom, “but the weather’s difficult. For us, it’s very difficult to stay in this time.”

However, the teachers said they did enjoy being introduced to skiing and sledding.

Other unfamiliar challenges have included a first ride on an airplane, encounters with dogs – Ometepe residents don’t keep them as pets – and riding the City Hall elevator, a discovery that ended plans to visit the Space Needle.

The teachers have visited the Senior Center, and spent a day at Helpline House. They’ve helped bag Ometepe coffee, a weekly event at the Pegasus Coffee warehouse, and visited the Buddhist temple, where the resident monk, who is from Cuba, speaks Spanish.

Plans for the rest of their stay include a day with the S’Klallam tribe in Little Boston, a look at Seattle homeless shelters, and a tour of a ferry wheelhouse with the boat’s captain.

Then, after three days on Salt Spring, a Canadian Gulf Island that has also adopted Ometepe as a sister island, Potoy, Darlin and Cruz will head home to Nicaragua.

The trip is already a success, the teachers say.

“The people here are so kind,” Potoy said. “One feels happy, received with open arms.”

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