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Meet Adriana Cortés, the director of Fundación Comunitario del Bajío since it was founded in 1998 in Irapuato. The Fundación is one of at least 10 nonprofits Cortés has been involved in founding. She is a Synergos Senior Fellow, a cohort of “distinguished international civil society leaders committed to collaborative efforts that address the underlying causes of poverty and inequity.”

Adriana Cortés

Cortés talks about the importance of seeing how people live. She talks about connecting the mind and the heart. She talks about the value of dignity.

“Adriana’s work, the importance of it, is that it’s integrated development,” says Elisa Sabatini, the president of Via International.

“We first hear the people,” says Cortés. “We sit with them. We plan with them.” 

“My office is everywhere,” she says. 

Integrated development is a holistic approach to building communities locally, including economic development, education, access to health care, social development, the environment, and the intangibles of heritage.

“Adriana has been Go Global NC’s valued partner in Guanajuato for nearly 20 years. Interacting with her and the Fundación Comunitario del Bajío creates authentic, enlightening experiences for Global Teachers.” — Meredith Henderson, Go Global NC

Our day with Cortés begins at the Guanajuato Institute of Technical Training, IECA. Luis Ángel Leveroni explains that they work with corporations, the public, social organizations, and the government to train the workforce of today and tomorrow.

Aldelmo Reyes Pablo, who works with the Secretary of Education, then talked to our teachers about “the importance of education in building a workforce with more vision.”

And then we were off to the schools!

Think about it: The culture of a classroom

Angie McClain

Maria Olivia Evangelina Fonseca Mosqueda is the principal at Escuela Primaria Luis Chavez Orozco in Irapuato. My group of teachers embedded for an hour in a first grade class and then an hour in a fifth grade class.

Maria Raya Rosas is the first grade teacher. The students in her class are copying sentences from the blackboard and circling the articles. Later in the class, she reads the students a story, “La Casita del Caracol.”

Mary Malpass

Alfonso Negrete Soto is our fifth grade teacher. His class is finishing up a geography lesson before turning their attention to math.

The magic begins with a lesson on circumference. The “maestro,” which is the word the students use for teacher, hands out a piece of string to each student. Most of the students take the red string and form a circle with it. In this video, Jacob Newbauer explains what is happening:

Then the maestro started handing out tortillas to all of the students, asking them to draw on the tortilla. He says they will remember the center, the radius, and the diameter better this way. When students finish early, they are given a handout and asked to color in all of the circles. “Piénsale,” Negrete Soto says over and over, walking around the classroom. “Think about it.”

The classroom culture was even more interesting than the math lesson. Our teachers noticed the student’s cooperation and collaboration with each other, their capacity to communicate, the way they changed the seating relative to the task at hand, and just how engaged the students were in learning.

Afternoon school runs from 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. After math class, there was a school assembly featuring local dances.

Our school visit ended with our teachers sharing their reflections with their teachers in a closing circle. 

“My favorite thing is teachers who are excited to teach and students who are excited to learn. Your school has both.”

“Your passion and love for your children shines in their smiles and their eyes.”

“I saw love in every interaction you had with your students today.”

“We are all in this together.”

The purpose of education? Forming students

Our middle and high school teachers visited Secundaria Oficial Irapuato, a school that is focused on the purpose of school. The principal, Carlos Rico Maldonado, told our teachers he wants students to want to come to school. He wants them to understand the values of respect, responsibility, and humility. He believes the greatness of a country or a people is in how they treat people who have less than they do.

Courtesy of Alex Herzing

Freebird McKinney, the 2018 Burroughs Wellcome Fund N.C. Teacher of the Year, tells me about an exercise the school does each year to engage parents, called “trust guides.” They invite the parents to the school. When the parents arrive, they are blindfolded. The students are lined up, and the parents try to identify their child by only touching the faces of the students. The principal says this builds empathy and strengthens the bonds of the students and the parents and the school.

Julie Pittman follows up. “At this school, the purpose of school is the formation of people,” she says. “The emotional tending to their soul. Teaching is a vocation not a job. When students ask about the role of the teacher given our access to information via the internet, the principal says teachers help you manage, organize, and form yourself.”

McKinney says, “The principal is committed to an inclusive environment and educational community that focuses on interpersonal relationship building. His philosophy is to move from equality to equity with unity as an underlying foundation.”

He notes with a smile that the principal said he plans to teach until he is a hundred years old with a cane in his hand.

“He loves it when students know teachers give up their hearts,” says McKinney. “If we don’t come to love our students, the principal said we cannot do anything.”

Janine Colello

Janine Colello is as an interventional math and reading teacher at Contentnea Savannah K-8 School. She says, “This trip has given me a bucket of things for my migrant students to be proud of.”

“Who is going to do the change?” asks Adriana Cortés. And looking at all of our teachers, she says, “We.”

Thank you to the students, the teachers, the parents, and the principals of the schools who opened your doors, your classrooms, your hearts, and your minds to us.


About Go Global NC

Go Global NC, part of the University of North Carolina System since 1979, designs and manages programs that build the capacity of policy leaders, educators, students, and business and community leaders to enable North Carolina to succeed in a global economy and increasingly interdependent world. 

Go Global NC’s Global Teachers Professional Development Program, founded in 1991, provides professional development to K-12 teachers from across North Carolina through an in-depth learning experience about the history, culture, and environment of other countries.

About Via International

Via International is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with 40 years of experience engaging people to participate in community development initiatives. Their focus is to improve quality of life by providing educational and transformational experiences to connect people to community development work through voluntourism and civic engagement. Via International is Go Global NC’s trusted partner on this program helping to provide unique local access.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.