Caroline Gray Villa Soleada Bilingual School Honduras Shin Fujiyama Podcast

Caroline Gray at the Villa Soleada Bilingual School

Today’s guest is our very own Caroline Gray, a staff member here at Students Helping Honduras. She began teaching in 2011 in a low-income neighborhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut through Teach For America. Her first year there, she taught reading and writing for grades K through 8. She then taught third grade for two years.

Caroline moved to Honduras in 2014 to teach third grade at our Villa Soleada Bilingual School, helping her students achieve 1.6 years of growth in reading each year. And she did that twice. She is now the Academic Director of the school.

You can follow her on Facebook and personal blog.

Show Links

Caroline Gray Villa Soleada Bilingual School Honduras Shin Fujiyama Podcast Fieldtrip

Caroline Gray Villa Soleada Bilingual School Soccer Team Shin Fujiyama Podcast Honduras

Show Notes & Summary

  • She oversees the curriculum
  • Why Honduran parents want to send their children to a private bilingual school
  • The tuition for bilingual schools can range from $100-$400 per month plus material costs in northern Honduras
  • The Villa Soleada Bilingual School’s tuition is around $25/month
  • Caroline shares the story of a student from Villa Soleada who has been making tremendous growth despite coming from a challenging home-life and having parents who are illiterate
  • The evolution of the bilingual curriculum at the school, especially aligning the content taught in Spanish and in English
  • In Pre-K and Kindergarten classes, the majority of the classes are taught in Spanish
  • As they move through the grades, less Spanish is spoken and more English is spoken
  • By the upper grade levels, the majority of classes are taught in English
  • Teacher training at Villa Soleada Bilingual School has evolved tremendously, going from a few days to five weeks
  • We use the S.M.A.R.T. (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) framework when setting goals
  • We assess the students three times per year in phonics, sight words, reading comprehension, and math
  • We track data for each individual students and also entire classrooms using the Core Phonics Survey assessment, Reading A-Z Diagnostics, and the NWEA MAP Assessment
  • Our school shares many values with Teach for America. A big one is in the belief that all students regardless of where they come from deserve equal access to an excellent education as their wealthier peers
  •  We also align with TFA in the belief that great behavior management and high quality instruction can lead students to find success in the classroom no matter where they are
  • Time management is Caroline’s greatest challenge
  • Caroline has many self-doubts and insecurities, only being 27 years old and running Villa Soleada Bilingual
  • Her Spanish was poor when she began in Honduras
  • Caroline understands her limitations and reaches out to a wide range people who support her
  • A special shoutout to Maxie Gluckman
  • Caroline loses sleep when she is worried about her students who come to school with black eyes or when families are assaulted
  • She understands the need for a holistic pathway out of poverty to supplement the work that the school is doing
  • Teachers who didn’t succeed at VSBS failed to become a part of the greater community in El Progreso, which serves as an outlet. It gives them a way to relax and make friends. Small things like joining the local gym
  • The teachers who succeed have the heart for this kind of work. They have a sense of purpose.
  • The students who come from wealthier neighborhoods have superior early childhood education. The children from lower-income families have to catch up already in pre-K and Kindergarten.
  • Earning the trust of the community and parents has been challenging for Caroline. It took years for her to build that trust, especially in an environment where parents are used to foreign staff members coming and going each year
  • The school is looking to provide more extracurricular activities to the students
  • The Summer Enrichment Program allowed children to participate in many extracurricular activities
  • Caroline is the head soccer coach of the school. Our team has lost almost every single game, but our kids have learned to play with heart and humility; to lose with grace and dignity; to improve.
  • The first and last victory of the year was huge. It was 120 degrees outside. The victory was for the team and for the school and the entire community. The entire community cheered on the team and celebrated.
  • Caroline’s goal for the team is to continue improving technical skills and approach everyday with courage
  • She wants our kids to be on par with their peer in high performance schools in the US by the time they graduate from our school at the 9th grade
  • The kids who graduate would go onto a bilingual high school in the city or continue to work on conversational English with us
  • Fluent English speakers can work at the growing tourism and call center industries, even as managers.
  • Jobs that require English pay much better in general in Honduras
  • Get ready for our very first graduation ceremony in the year 2020!