Guatemala Project
By Kathy Davin

Informational Flyer


Join Us In 2018!

Kathy Davin, (GWRC),
with Felipa Lux Batten, librarian
at the school
in Sta. Avelina, Guatemala.

Are you looking for a way to combine adventure, travel, and community service next summer? Are you interested in learning about the culture of your Central American students, sharing your expertise, and exploring new and innovative teaching methods along with colleagues from across the U.S and Central America?  Consider joining us for the annual Reading Week of teacher training in Guatemala, sponsored by Helps International and supported by the GWRC. The training will take place in July, 2018*.  Cost to participants will be approximately $1200, inclusive of flights and in-country meals, transportation, and accommodations.  Participation is open to all teachers and graduate level education students. Fluency in Spanish is not required.  Please contact Kathy Davin if you would like more information. (*Specific dates will be posted on this web site in January).



2017 Trip

The team decompresses at
Dona Luisa's in Antigua, Guatemala.

A team of teachers from Virginia spent a week in Sta. Avelina, Guatemala, in July, as part of GWRC's ongoing support of the literacy program at the local school.


Representing Arlington County were Erin Kowalevicz, Nathan Erwin, Megan McCormick* and Kathy Davin*; from Shenandoah County and Eastern Mennonite University: Dr. Tracy Hough, Katie Brubaker Sanford and Selena High; from Fairfax County and George Mason University: Melissa Gallagher*. (* denotes teachers who no longer work for these school systems) Chris Sanford, of Harrisonburg, VA, also accompanied the group.


En route to the village, the group visited the famous market of Chichicastenango. The team then spent four intense days in Sta. Avelina, working with children in the mornings, coaching teachers in the afternoons, eating traditional dishes prepared by local women at mid-day, and sleeping on cots in the classrooms at night. The visiting team treated the local teachers to an impromptu Fourth of July celebration featuring hot dogs, potato salad, watermelon and lemonade. The last day, the entire faculty accompanied the team on a hike to the local waterfall. On the return trip, the group spent two nights in colonial Antigua, Guatemala, a UNESCO world heritage site.


The focus of the workshops this year was on encouraging more active oral participation and engagement on the part of all students in a class using practices such as think-pair-share, using higher level discussion questions during reading groups, and using adjectives that correspond to the five senses in writing. A priority for the program is supporting beginning reading instruction in the local Mayan language (Ixil). The two groups of teachers spent an afternoon exchanging lessons on common greetings and other basic phrases in Ixil and in English.


At the local waterfall in Sta. Avelina.


Students work on a writing assignment on the front steps of the school.


Erin Kowalevicz, of Arlington Public Schools, working with first graders.


Fourth grade classroom served as a women's dormitory for the week!



Antigua, Guatemala, where the team spent the last two nights of the trip.


Beginning in 2011, the Greater Washington Reading Council has co-sponsored a literacy project in the rural highlands of Guatemala. GWRC provides partial funding for the purchase of materials for guided reading instruction.  GWRC members are invited to join a group of educators every July for a week of on-site teacher training in best practices for literacy instruction.  The focus is on first language literacy and vocabulary development in the second language. The US teachers spend the mornings observing and coaching in the classrooms and the afternoons conducting workshops and helping local teachers plan instruction.  Fluency in Spanish is desirable but not required.  The coordinator of the project is Kathy Davin. (

 Before the 1996 Peace Accords, students who attended school in the Ixil region of Guatemala were immersed in Spanish from the minute they entered the building.  There was no instruction in the home language.  Few learned to read.  Life in this region was impacted by the Civil War.  Families exist on subsistence agriculture and earn a little cash by pooling together the coffee they grow and selling it through a cooperative.  The outside world is making inroads in this region of Guatemala with the introduction of improved highway access, dam construction, radio, cell phones, etc.  Literacy is essential to the survival and well being of these communities.  Literacy is best introduced in the language of the home.

 The Centro Educativo William Botnan is a Kindergarten - sixth grade primary school located in the village of Santa Avelina, municipality of San Juan Cotzal, department of Quiche, Guatemala.  The language is Ixil, one of 23 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala.  The school was built by and is partially funded by the non-governmental organization HELPS International (  The teachers at the school in Santa Avelina have worked with a team of multi-national educators to establish a program of bilingual literacy.  The goal is to introduce literacy in the home language, Ixil, and transition to literacy in Spanish by the end of sixth grade using a 90/10 model (90% home language instruction/10% Spanish instruction in Pre-Primaria, or kindergarten, transitioning to the reverse by grade six).

HELPS envisons "Hub" schools that successfully implement a well-designed learning program to serve as teacher learning centers and technology resource centers for surrounding schools.  The school in Santa Avelina serves as an educational headquarters for the Ixil Region and as a model for expansion of educational initiatives throughout Guatemala.