Nicaraguan Teacher Breaks the Cycle of Illiteracy

This is part of a series of stories celebrating buildOn’s milestone this month of reaching 500 schools built globally and one million hours served by United States students locally. During the next few weeks we’ll be looking at buildOn’s impact on several communities where we build overseas and where we serve in the U.S.

As told to by Melissa Sanseverino, buildOn’s Development Coordinator

“Teaching is a gift that God gives you to have the ability to teach others who don’t know anything,” said Jose Andrez Hernandez, 32, one of the teachers at buildOn’s new school in Guapinolito, Nicaragua. That was Hernandez’s response when buildOn staff asked him why he is a teacher when he had to live on little money, far away from his family in Jinotega. He didn’t attend school until 1990, when he was 11, because of the country’s civil war. But Hernandez was so inspired by his first teacher, who taught him to read his first syllable, he promised himself right then and there would become a teacher himself. He has taught at four different schools for 14 years, and he’s been teaching first through sixth grade at the Guapinolito school for three of those. He moved to the town because he could farm a small piece of land to sustain his modest salary.

In September, Hernandez, his colleagues and his 47 students inaugurated their new school! The villagers helped build the school with buildOn staff, thanks to the funding made through our donors. Previously, the teachers taught in an open-sided structure of chicken wire with a tin roof. Because many parents in the community don’t make it a priority to send their kids to school, it’s a big incentive to send their kids now that there is a big permanent structure. There will be less distractions for the students, and it will provide a positive learning environment.

When buildOn’s Melissa Sanseverino visited the site with the school’s donors, Hernandez organized a welcome ceremony for them with the students performing traditional dances. The visitors watched him teach and saw how he exuded positive energy, giving students individual attention by saying, “That’s very good, mi amor,” encouraging them every step of the way. In turn, the school’s donors taught the students a little English. Hernandez was enthused to be a part of such a unique experience. He told the students to soak up as much as they could because it might be the only change they would get to have an English lesson taught by North Americans.

One of the most endearing things about Hernandez is his commitment to education. As a teacher, he’s an unsung hero in Nicaragua; he doesn’t earn a lot of money or respect with his position. Yet Hernadez’s goal is clear. He wants to enroll all of Guapinolito’s children in school, so he visits families and speaks to parents about it. This isn’t in his job description; he just strongly believes in the power of an education.