A retired teacher from Mexico City, Gloria has also done literacy training among villagers displaced by the military and paramilitary groups. She currently works out of Oventic.
Gloria was interviewed by Larry Miller, a Rethinking Schools editor, and the interview was translated by Dennis Oulahan, a bilingual teacher in Milwaukee.
Q: Can you give some examples of the conditions facing Mayan students?
In a community called Xolep, there were no paper or pencils where I taught. I started by drawing figures in the dirt. We then taught letters by forming them with sticks. One day students brought flower petals to shape the letters.
When we were able to gather enough money for notebooks, we gave them to the students and asked them to report the next day to the tree where we were holding school. All the students came in unison the next day, having cleaned their clothes and groomed themselves. They proudly filed under the teaching tree, notebooks tucked under their arms, feeling that they were now officially students.
At one point in Xolep, I had a five-year-old student come to school wearing only a t-shirt. The next day he came to school completely naked. We had a selection of clothes donated to the community and this boy picked some. The next day he showed up in red flannel long underwear, buttoned up to his neck, dripping with beads of sweat, and with his notebook tucked under his arm. He was ready to make use of the education his community was proudly offering its children for the first time.