Mexico celebrates Teacher’s Day every year on May 15th. For children with visual impairment and complex disabilities, the teachers are on the front lines supporting these kids on their journey to learning and becoming an active part of their community. With patience, kindness, and a wealth of expertise, it is the teachers who spend their days with these kids, supporting and coaching them to grow and to thrive. In short, these teachers are our heroes. To commemorate the occasion, we talked with Angelica Bastarrachea, a communication teacher at the special education school CAM Tecoh, in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. Perkins started working with CAM Tecoh in 2019 to enhance their program. Cam Tecoh is one of Perkins’ model programs and through Perkins International Academy, teacher training is provided. As part of this continued collaboration between Perkins and CAM Tecoh, Angelica -or Angie, as she likes to be called- is currently getting training at the Perkins campus in Watertown as part of the Educational Leadership Program.
Every morning, Angie leaves her house in Merida around 6:00 am for Tecoh, a rural Mayan community south of the city. She enjoys her one-hour drive, it helps her relax and get ready for her day ahead. Her car trunk is always full of new materials for her students. She builds calendars for them, texture books, and also helps adapt chairs, and head supports so children with complex disabilities can get the support they need to sit comfortably at the classroom and learn.
Classes start at 8:00pm, but students start arriving at 7:30 am in CAM Tecoh. Before her students arrive, Angie needs to check to ensure the classroom is clean and dry – there is a leak and it can get untidy with rain.
When students arrive at the school, Angie talks to their parents and checks the student’s records. She likes to know if they ate dinner the night before, if they slept well, if they took medication and if they had breakfast. All this will affect the students’ performance at school and Angie likes to be prepared to address the children’s needs accordingly. Angie’s youngest student is one year old and the other one is 10 years old.
For Angie, one of the most important parts of her job is communication with the students’ parents. She believes the family needs to participate in their child’s education so they can learn and become active members of their communities.
Angie asks the parents what they would like to do; what goals they have for their children. Based on that, she develops a plan. She always asks the parents how they’re doing, she shows empathy because the parents and the family are integral to the support of each child. Without the support of their family, the children’s education is complicated – and even compromised.
A huge part of Angie’s role as teacher is to be involved with each family. It is important to learn all she can about each family’s history and routine, so much so that she is at the same level in the education of their children. Angie invites parents to prepare materials for their children, especially interactive activities with the child. For example, one mother made a sensory mat for her girls. Sitting with the parents gives her the opportunity to learn more about the parents and their children. Little by little the children get involved. By working together with families and the children, Angie is empowering families to be their own best advocate.
This Teacher’s Day, we want to celebrate Angie, and all teacher’s, who help change the lives of their students and create lasting impact.