By WorldTeach Ecuador volunteer Morgan Thornberry, 2016
I have just spent the last 316 days exploring your mountains, swimming in your waterfalls, hiking your jungles, teaching your preschoolers and learning from your youth as a WorldTeach volunteer. My mom has always said that when something touches your life, you should send that person a thank you note. So, here, dear Ecuador, is my thank you note.
Thank you to you, and WorldTeach, for connecting me with wonderful people from all other the world. My cohort included volunteers from Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, and from both of America’s coasts. They constantly pushed me to become the best version of myself both in the classroom and outside of it. Once we trekked to Quilotoa Crater Lake, high in the Andes, for a weekend of hiking, eating and sightseeing. A group of us woke up early on Sunday to hike the crater, which is 6.2 miles of up and down and down and up at about 13,000 feet above sea level. It was the hardest hike I have ever done in my life, and I’ve done mountains in Idaho. I would still be sitting on the top of that mountain if it weren’t for my cohort. They pushed me, made me laugh and got me down the mountain and through the next 10 months. They are the greatest people I have ever met. The kind who stretch you and challenge you and inspire you. Our adventures aren’t over yet, I’m confident of that, but thank you Ecuador and WorldTeach for bringing them into my life.
Thank you for confirming the fact that I want to spend my life teaching. You and WorldTeach introduced me to students who were eager to learn. WorldTeach gave me the skills and confidence to walk into a classroom and execute a perfect lesson plan. When things didn’t go perfectly, WorldTeach provided me with peers who were willing to talk through why things had gone wrong and offer suggestions for making them right next time. I saw firsthand how a teacher can inspire students to think about and connect with the world around them. I planned on a 20-minute discussion about why society needs laws, but it turned into a 90-minute conversation. My students, every single one of them, no matter their English level, debated different government structures and compared and contrasted how they functioned in countries such as the United States, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. I was inspired, and I can’t thank you enough for giving me that moment, which I know will guide me as I pursue my teaching endeavors.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to volunteer two days a week with the smartest, happiest and funniest bunch of 4-year-olds anyone will ever meet. Volunteering has always been important to me and Ecuador; you gave me the opportunity to continue that work on a whole different continent. Teaching adults a second language can be difficult, but teaching 4-year-olds a second language is challenging. There are so many things that can quickly capture their short little attention spans. So, I was forced to try and captivate them by including songs, dances, coloring sheets and Disney Princesses and superheroes in my lessons. Thank you for challenging me and testing my teaching abilities and for sharing your future generations with me. My cohort also thanks you for the endless videos of my 4-year-olds, which brought smiles to their faces.
Thank you for warmly welcoming me into your neighborhoods, your towns, and your countryside. Thank you, WorldTeach, for introducing me to a host mom who took me in and loved me like her own daughter. She made some of Ecuador’s most incredible foods, and then shared them with me. Thank you for all the weekend trips to every corner of the country. Thank you for the long bus rides, the ocean breezes, the river rafting, the fresh flowers, and the conversations with my amazing roommate. Thank you for the most amazing fresh fruits and juices. Thank you for teaching me your language and not laughing at me every time I practiced my newfound skills. Thank you for letting me share you with my family. Thank you for some of the best friends I have ever had.
Ecuador, above all else, thank you for changing my life in every way. Thank you for giving me the most wonderful memories. Thank you for stealing a part of my heart. It’s a part I will never get back and I am completely okay with that. I love you. I will be seeing you soon. And, for teaching me that everything will be OK. It’s even gonna be great.