Educators reach into Ecuador to make positive impact with Project Reach

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For one week, eight instructors and one director met in Bluemont Hall to complete training before beginning their journey to Yachay, Ecuador from March 10-14. The group was hired to teach for one year with the K-State Center of Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy’s Project Reach, or CIMA.

This is one of the first projects of its kind with an innovative paperless curriculum, a brand new university at the group’s fingertips, as well as the academic top five percent of students in the area ready for their first day at the Yachay Language Institute.

The Ecuadorian government reached out in order to start President Rafael Correa’s new initiative to make all high schools in the country bilingual. Correa has said he wants to improve his country and knows that one of the first steps in that dream is to educate Ecuadorian youth, which is how Project Reach came to life. K-State bid for the opportunity, as it was already affiliated with the Ecuadorian education system because of the Go Teacher Program. The Go Teacher program brought Ecuadorian educators to K-State to enhance their education.

“Groups of teachers came to K-State’s campus,” said Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education. “They worked with the English language program within our office of international programs. When they were to a level that allowed them graduate out of that program they took courses from us.”

Yachay is a city in northern Ecuador which has been referred to as the “Silicon Valley of South America.” CIMA got a group of educators together in order to travel to the Ecuadorian government’s new experimental University of Yachay — the City of Knowledge. The university’s first day of classes will start April 1. The educators from Project Reach left on March 16 after an intense week of training in Manhattan.

Shelly Camba, one of the educators who went on the trip, said she had two main reasons for going. The first was because she received her degree in K-State’s education program, and the second is because she married an Ecuadorian.

“It’s a great move in terms of professionally it stretches me in a way I haven’t been stretched,” Camba said. “Personally it fits with my passions.”

The curriculum was created by professor and executive director of CIMA, Socorro Herrera, and her team. The curriculum was based on many different teaching approaches that succeeded for the Ecuadorian teachers who returned from the Go Teacher Program. The director of the trip, Joseph Kuhl, said he has had many good experiences with start ups in the past as well as experience teaching over seas.

“I was in Afghanistan as a project coordinator with an English language training program there with the Afghan air force doing English for special purposes,” Kuhl said. “So I had been there for six months, saw this job advert and didn’t really quite believe that this was really going to happen. I did what research was online and looked into the CIMA program and said, ‘this is to good to be true for me.'”

Mercer said she believes this project will have a positive impact on the future of K-State and the education system of Ecuador, as well as the people involved in the program.

“It really is going to have a global perspective when they get finished with all the programming they want to implement,” Mercer said. “The bottom line that drives us is making an impact.”

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