A Case of Changing Tastes

Michael Whitney

Julio Garcia, who lives in the Galapagos Islands, used to have an enviable job on the mainland of Ecuador.  He tasted shrimp for an exporting company.

“I tasted the shrimp for quality,” he said, “Who would not love the job?

To get ahead in the shrimp business, Garcia figured he needed to learn English.  Many of the books he wanted to read were not available in the Spanish language that he grew up with in Ecuador in the coastal city of Guayaquil.

But a funny thing happened. As he got going in English, he began to lose interest in shrimp.

Before long he was studying for a teaching certificate in English and, soon, his life was transformed. He moved to the Galapagos Islands, which are a part of Ecuador but 600 miles out in the Pacific Ocean, and began teaching English to Spanish-speaking high school students on the island of Isabela.

His classes are small by American public school standards with about 17 students each. But the classrooms are bare with no more than the essentials: A desk and a chair for the teacher and desks for about 20 students.

Garcia and other teachers say the classrooms might be decorated if teachers were assigned to them as homerooms and could personalize them. As it is now, he said, students work in one classroom and teachers rotate in and out of that classroom.  And the teachers have no stake I how the classrooms look.

Garcia said he likes to incorporate games into his lessons. The games, he said, help motivate students and keep their attention. Two of his favorites are Hangman and the Secret Word. He said Hangman helps students learn spelling and that Secret Word helps them with their understanding of words.

Garcia teaches from 7:00 A.M. through 1:00 P.M. daily and is off for the weekends. He earns $800 dollars a month.

In his spare time, he cruises around the town of Puerto Villamil on his mountain bicycle. Puerto Villamil, with 2,800 people, is the largest town on Isabela.  It has hard-packed sand streets and the posts for the street lights are made out of salvaged driftwood.

These days, Garcia said, he rarely thinks about the shrimp business. “I love kids,” he said, “and I love to teach.” #



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