by Elizabeth Thelen
Teachers in Suruacá face many challenges, yet Telma Bentes Farias believes that, with time and faith, she will find what she needs to build her career and life. Determined to help her community, Telma has devoted herself to teaching. During school breaks she is completing a mathematics degree at the university in Santarém, a city about five hours away. Telma is well aware of the challenges for teachers brought about by the differences between current teaching models and Suruacá's reality. For this reason, she is excited to partner with CEN and Teachers Without Borders to develop innovative solutions for Suruacá’s schools.
Suruacá’s six-room community school serves about 150 students in first through eighth grade. The classes taught include Portuguese, Math, Science, Amazon Studies, and English. Twenty-one teachers serve not only this school, but those in six other remote communities as well. Middle school classes have recently been added in Suruacá but not all the courses students need to graduate are yet offered.
Barriers to education in Suruacá are many. In addition to a chronic lack of teaching supplies and sufficient electricity, there is a lack of understanding among some parents about the importance of education which reduces support for students. Because the nearest high school is in Santarem, many teachers in the community have not completed high school themselves and are teaching to the limit of their own knowledge.
Telma is hoping to overcome many of these barriers with the support of CEN and Teachers Without Borders . She is leading and participating in an English class using Rosetta Stone software provided by CEN. Telma believes that knowing both English and Spanish will help Suruaca by easing the community's ability to communicate and collaborate with people outside of the community. She is also participating in the pilot program for Teachers Without Border's Certificate of Teaching Mastery, which our partner, Link Social, expects to expand next year. This program features a series of online courses designed to improve teacher skills. Like CEN's work, this program emphasizes project based learning, critical thinking, and life-long learning skills. By participating in this program, Telma hopes to develop teaching skills that will increase the relevance of education for the community of Suruacá. Her passion for teaching will help the next generation gain the skills they need to fully utilize the telecenter and take control of their future.