Meet Our Staff in Guatemala
We are proud of our Guatemalan staff. They are the heart and soul of our programs, and provide the leadership skills and personal touch that make our teacher and librarian trainings successful. Most of these exuberant, talented and dedicated people are from the communities where we work and have worked as teachers and librarians themselves. They know the communities intimately, speak the local languages, and have a passionate commitment to our mission of improving education in Guatemala.
Angus Fredenburg, M.A.
Angus joined Child Aid in 2013 to help manage our growing team of literacy trainers and build connections between schools, parents, and local communities. Angus has a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from the University of Louisville and has been a classroom teacher in the U.S. He was a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in the town of Muy Muy, Nicaragua, where he taught science and environmental education. He gained experience there in community development as well as teacher training, working closely with local teachers in individual planning sessions. This year, Angus was promoted to Director of Programs. In this role, he provides personnel and program management, as well as oversight for data collection. His impeccable Spanish and his strong relationships with the staff contributed to the stability and ease with which changes and expansion take place.
Annie Blakeslee, M.A.
Director of Pedagogy
Annie began working with Child Aid in April of 2015 as our Director of Pedagogy. With a background in Elementary Education and ESL, Annie worked as an ESL teacher at a charter school in Pennsylvania, and as a classroom teacher and later Academic Director at Light and Life School in Bogotá, Colombia. During her time as Academic Director, Annie developed a literacy curriculum for the school and provided staff development. After two years as Academic Director, she decided to pursue her Master’s in Education at the University of Turku in Finland, as Finland is a world leader in education. She received her degree right after joining Child Aid.
Graciela joined Child Aid in 2010 as a literacy trainer. She now coordinates our team of trainers to help rural teachers develop skills and techniques for teaching literacy. Graciela has a long history in education and social work. She was a nun for 14 years, working as a missionary with young women and families. She later become a classroom teacher, trainer and program coordinator with Common Hope, a social services non-profit in Antigua. She is currently pursuing a law degree, which she one day hopes to use to continue to serve her community, both with legal assistance and as a role model. “I am a woman – indigenous, Mayan, Kaqchikel – with high professional aspirations,” she says. “I would like to be an example for indigenous women and families in Guatemala.”
Jeremias has been a literacy trainer with Child Aid since 2011. He brings great energy and enthusiasm to his work with both students and teachers. Jeremias grew up in the town of Las Canoas and speaks Kaqchikel, K’iche and Tzutujil in addition to Spanish. Although he was a good student, he says reading was taught by repetition and decoding and was very boring. His parents encouraged him to read, but he had little access to books, especially storybooks and novels. It wasn’t until after he reached university and developed a love of learning that he discovered the value of books in his life. In his work with Child Aid, Jeremias says he hopes he can pass on his enthusiasm for reading and help students understand that learning can be fun and important to their lives. “I try to show how school can be fun and not so boring. Because when reading is fun, they learn.”
Jorge has been with Child Aid since 2011 after working as a librarian in a mobile library bus for several years. He was an early participant in Child Aid’s librarian trainings and showed great initiative implementing the skills he learned there. Now, Jorge leads our student teacher training program, offering students the skills to teach and promote reading in their future classrooms. Jorge grew up in the small Kaqchikel-speaking village of El Sitio. Education was a priority in his home and Jorge and his parents sacrificed much of their limited means for him to continue his studies. Jorge credits his career with Child Aid for helping him learn to think critically about his teaching and become a better instructor. “I am proud to be able to develop the abilities of students with my teaching,” he says. “They are very intelligent and I enjoy being their guide.”
As Coordinator of Operations, Maritza manages the many daily logistics that keep the Child Aid team running. She also helps coordinate the distribution of thousands of donated books to schools and libraries throughout the country. Maritza comes from the city of Huehuetenango in the highlands of western Guatemala. She has a degree in Tourism Administration from University Francisco Marroquin. Before joining Child Aid in 2012 she was the assistant to the director of Organization of American States. She says she is proud to know that her work with Child Aid is helping to improve Guatemala’s education system.
Rosenda came to Child Aid in 2011 from the Population Council where she was an intern. She grew up speaking K’iche’ in a small village in the Totonicapán region in the west of Guatemala and is currently studying for a teaching degree in bilingual education. She says she enjoys the many different aspects of her role as a literacy trainer, especially working with teachers to help them develop their skills and learn new techniques to use in the classroom. “Although I come from a poor family, I am proud that I was able overcome the obstacles and excel, both personally and academically,” she says. “I am happy to have a place in an organization that is a leader in encouraging the habit of reading in the children and young people of our rural communities.”
Kelly joined Child Aid in 2013 as a Reading Promoter, working with our Library team to help libraries improve their reading and writing programs. Kelly is from the town of San Andrés Semetabaj near Lake Atitlán. Growing up in a family of three children, Kelly says her parents were a major influence in her education, helping her learn to read at home and encouraging her to pursue her goal of getting a professional degree. Kelly is currently studying for a degree in social work which she hopes to use to help families change and improve their lives. In her time with Child Aid, she has developed a new appreciation of the importance of reading in her life and how it can help young people become leaders in their communities. “We all have the capacity to change our communities and reading and writing is a tool to help us achieve that change.”
Evelyn joined Child Aid as a Literacy Trainer in 2012. Previously she taught reading skills to parents and children with an organization promoting health in her community. Evelyn comes from San Lucas Toliman, a community on Lake Atitlan where her mother was a dressmaker and her father worked for the municipal government. Evelyn is studying for a degree in business administration and hopes to one day run her own business. “I like working with the students in their classrooms,” she says. “The students are dynamic, loving, grateful and anxious to learn new things.”
Sara is from the town of San Lucas Toliman on the shores of Lake Atitlan, where she worked as a primary school teacher before joining Child Aid as a Literacy Trainer in 2013. Sara has attended many trainings related to her teaching degree, specifically on the Guatemalan National Curriculum. She is excited to bring her teaching experience to a new area, helping other teachers develop their skills and techniques. “I’ve realized that this is my vocation,” she says. “I enjoy teaching others.” She has enjoyed learning about Child Aid’s methodologies and techniques and is looking forward to working with teachers to improve the education of students in her community.
Edgar joined Child Aid in 2012 as a Reading Promoter, working in the libraries of Las Canoas and Santa Catarina. Edgar graduated high school in 2011 with a degree in bilingual education at the primary school level and is currently pursuing a law degree, which he hopes to one day use to help vulnerable people in his community understand and protect their rights. Edgar says working with Child Aid has brought many positive changes to his life including allowing him to support his sister in her own education. His literacy training work has given him valuable new skills that he has been able to apply to his university studies. “The most important thing has been to improve my reading and have the tools that facilitate good comprehension,” he says. “That has helped me expand my knowledge and do better in my classes.”
Erick joined Child Aid in 2013 as a Literacy Trainer. He previously worked as a bank assistant manager and as job trainer with the non-profit organization Starfish. He grew up in the town of San Andres Semetabaj where his father worked as a driver and owned a small store. Erick’s experiences have helped him understand how to integrate leadership into teamwork. His previous work as a job trainer was significant in allowing him to adapt to life in rural communities, as well as to improve his ability to communicate with families who do not speak Spanish. He is excited to apply his experience with training and implementing workshops to promote reading in his community.
Norma began working with Child Aid in 2005 as one of our first Reading Promoters. She was previously the librarian at the “Biblioteca Popular,” a community library in Panajachel that was written up in the New York Times as a model library for Central America. She has been instrumental in helping develop Child Aid’s materials for teachers and librarians. Norma is currently studying for a degree in clinical psychology. After many years of working in schools and libraries, Norma says she still loves visiting classrooms and reading to children. “I try to model different techniques the teachers can use to engage the kids and get them participating in the story. Because those read-alouds are where their love of reading really begins.”
Marilena joined Child Aid in 2012 as a Literacy Trainer. She grew up in the town of Patzún where her family runs a shop selling traditional Guatemalan sweets. She is proud and grateful to her parents for supporting education in their home despite the challenges of raising eight kids. Before coming to Child Aid, Marilena worked as librarian in Patzún for three years. She is currently studying for a degree in clinical psychology. She says she appreciates Child Aid’s approach of making education in the classroom more participatory and creating an atmosphere of mutual learning between teachers and students. “It is incredible to visit the classrooms and see the smiles on the faces of children reading and to know they have the opportunity and resources to make their education different.”
Heidy Maybeli Coyote Mactzul
Heidy Joined Child Aid as a Literacy Trainer in 2015. She grew up in Patzún, Chimaltenango, where her parents made the traditional clothing of the region. Heidy is very proud of the positive example of hard work her parents set for her, and grateful for the unconditional support they gave her to go to school and get ahead in life. Before joining Child Aid, Heidy worked as a primary school teacher and a high school professor in her home town. Currently she is studying to get her natural sciences teaching degree, specializing in environmental education and English language at the University of San Carlos. “Being a part of Child Aid has had a great impact on my life. My reading and critical thinking skills are developing to the extent that I can pass along these skills to the teachers we train and their pupils, and so improve the quality of education in Guatemala.”
Elva Meliza Chacon
Meliza began working with Child Aid in 2015 as a Literacy Trainer. She speaks four languages: Tzutujil, Kaqchikel, Kiche, and Spanish. Over the past five years she has worked with women’s organizations in the areas of gender, sexual and reproductive rights, education, political empowerment, and citizenship; she has also worked with children and adolescents. Currently Meliza is in her third year studying bilingual and intercultural education and literacy. She has two children, and loves using education and literacy as tools to transform minds.
Juan Roberto, the third child in a family of six, grew up in the municipality of Santigao Atitlán, Sololá, on the shores of Lake Atitlán. He speaks Tzutujil and Spanish. He joined Child Aid in 2015 as a Literacy Trainer. In 2012 Juan Roberto graduated with a technical degree in pedagogy and social sciences, and in 2015 graduated with a degree in pedagogy and education administration from the Panamerican University. Previously, he worked as a teacher in a school for bilingual pre-school teachers. During this time, he helped his students with teaching techniques and methodologies. “Working in the Child Aid program has been a great experience. Arriving at each school and seeing the excitement on the faces of the children to learn to read or hear a story is indescribable.”
Mildred Jocabed Ramírez Esquina
Mildred began work with Child Aid in 2015 as a Literacy Trainer. Previously she worked as a librarian and teacher in a private high school. She is originally from Santiago Atitlán, Sololá, from a humble and hardworking family of four children. With the help of her parents, she has achieved her dream of being a teacher. Currently Mildred is studying for her teaching and education administration degrees. She thinks that her strength is interacting with students, and this is “what makes me happy every day.” Mildred enjoys sharing what she has learned from Child Aid with the teachers, and she continues to learn along with the teachers and children. “I like going to the schools with books, and making reading a spectacular adventure for my community.”