Teacher Spotlight: "My experiences in Nicaragua have made me a stronger teacher."

By:  Shaun Sammut                 
School: Notre Dame C.S.S. (Brampton)
Grades/Subjects Taught: 9 Geography, Grade 10 Civics, Grade 12 World Issues
Years of Teaching Experience:  10
Years of Experience with Nicaragua Excursions:  7

Why do you go to Nicaragua and why with Casa – Pueblito?

Nicaragua has an interesting history and is a prime example of how a nation can create change when it is moved to act.  This is exemplified in the 1979 overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.  Nicaragua is a great microcosm of many of the social issues and social injustices which exist in many countries throughout the world.  Focusing on a country such as Nicaragua gives me the opportunity to teach students about issues such as solidarity, neocolonialism, economic disparity, global climate change, fair trade, free trade, protectionism, globalisation and the increasing role of multinational corporations and their influence in geopolitics amongst a variety of other issues.

I have chosen to work with Casa – Pueblito due to their rich history of working in Nicaragua and close ties to the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB).  Casa – Pueblito facilitates excursions to Nicaragua for many different high school groups in the DPCDSB, as well as other school, college, and university groups.  They hire exceptional leaders with a great passion for education and for social justice.  I have been pleased with my previous 7 experiences with them and look forward to working with them again in the future.

What is the most memorable experience from your past Global Education trips to Nicaragua with Casa – Pueblito?

As many who have participated in this experience would probably agree, many of our best memories derive from our experience of living with our home-stay families.  My most personal memorable experience occurred in the community of El Limón, outside of Estelí in March 2013.  I was having a quiet dinner outside with my home-stay family and another male teacher colleague/friend who was helping me run the excursion.  Our homestay uncle who lived next door came over with his family and two students from our group.  He brought with him a guitar, a voice, and a lot of energy.  We ended up staying up late into the night listening to music, playing music, dancing, and, of course, eating.  It was a night filled with fun, family, friendship, and laughter and is a memory I hold dear to my heart to this very day!

Why should teachers lead a Global Education delegation to Nicaragua for students? 

Teachers who are interested in social justice and global awareness should seriously consider a Global Education delegation to Nicaragua.  My experiences in Nicaragua have made me a stronger teacher. I can rely on first-hand experiences as I discuss a variety of geopolitical and social justice issues in all of my classes.  Students tend to be more captivated when I speak of personal stories and are often full of engaging questions, which leads to exceptional discussions. 

The potential impact on students is great and reaches them at a time where they are old enough to understand the lessons taught and young enough to embrace change and concepts of solidarity.  I have seen this experience change the lives of many students.  I have even had students move on to university and begin their own social justice group and organize trips to Nicaragua with peers.  I have also received great feedback from former students and still keep in touch with many of them after graduation.

To prepare for this excursion requires a lot of work and commitment by both staff and students.  It therefore provides great opportunities to include and engage both the school community and the greater community at large.  We have worked closely with elementary schools, other high schools, faith groups, local business, and residents in the local community as we prepare for our excursion.  Fundraising events have given us the opportunity to educate others about the social injustices which exist in Nicaragua and elsewhere.  Upon our return from Nicaragua, we have further engaged these community partners as we share our experiences in a variety of different ways such as school murals, elementary school presentations, or even organized boycotts of certain multinational organizations.    

What advice do you have for teachers considering organizing a school delegation to Nicaragua?

My greatest advice to teachers who are considering participating in this experience is to be passionate about what you are doing.  It is a lot of work and responsibility to make something like this happen; it is therefore importance that you use your passion to drive you and your group. I also suggest that teachers see this as a long process as opposed to a “trip”.  It is important to educate your group and work closely with them to develop good relationships before departure.  It is even more important upon your return to find a way to bring your experiences back to the community. Finally, I would suggest contacting Casa – Pueblito and other schools who have participated before for help and guidance along the way.  Casa – Pueblito has a number of resources both in documents and in people who are eager and willing to help.  You do not have to do this alone!