Safe Passage teacher Miriam Orozco with two students.

Volunteers are undoubtedly integral players on the Safe Passage team.  No matter how long they can commit—even if just for a Support Team Week—their positive presence and work here is made sustainable by a constant, steady stream of energetic, caring, smart people!  The less often discussed, and even more crucial positive presence in the lives of Safe Passage students are our teachers. Read more.

Since school in Guatemala is only half-day, school teachers here are generally only asked to work from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m.  Safe Passage teachers or “educational guides” on the other hand are expected to work from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.  All of our students attend one of 43 public and private schools in the surrounding area, meaning that sometimes classes of 20 Safe Passage students represent up to 12 different schools!  It’s no surprise then that the teachers we’ve got are certainly a dedicated, organized bunch!

From former volunteer, Kerstin Bevers’ perspective,

“the most challenging part of the Safe Passage teachers' job is to be able to multitask. They have to control their students, make sure that they get their materials, do their homework, and are at the right place at the right time. To speak the truth, just one of these tasks can be challenging enough! To be able to look after every single child or teenager and make sure that they are all right, or in other words, to care about every single student while doing all of this work, is the biggest challenge as a Safe Passage teacher.”

With June 24th declared as National Teachers’ Day in Guatemala, we Safe Passage bloggers thought this would be a great time for our readers to get to know a couple of our teachers a little bit better…


Johanna Yool's class with the Farmington Rotary team.

Meet Johanna Yool, she has worked with Safe Passage for 5 years.  The last three years she has followed two sets of students from 8th-11th grade in the mornings and 2nd-5th grade in the afternoon.  She says her favorite part of the job is, “¡Todo! Everyday is good if my students are there,” but the most challenging is, “when any of my kids have any sort of problem with drugs, in their family, if they stop studying, etc.”  

Kerstin was Johanna Yool’s classroom assistant for more than 6 months.  In her opinion,

“what makes Johanna a good teacher is that she is very good at disciplining the students. She is on top of things throughout the time the kids are in the project. She coordinates the busy schedule and keeps track of what has to be done, which can be quite challenging in a class of more than 20 kids who all have different homework to do. Implementing her rules Johanna is able to create a classroom situation in which the kids can focus on their work without distraction.”


Now meet Miriam Orozco.  She currently teaches 2nd and 9th grade and has worked at Safe Passage for 6 years.  Married to one of our operations staff members, Miriam is an integral part of our Safe Passage family.   Miriam began working at Safe Passage because she wanted to help others.  She says that her favorite part of her job is watching her students and their families make progress and overcome obstacles.  The most challenging part for her is, “the knowledge that there are things that I can’t change, like their home environment.” 

One of Miriam’s biggest fans is the current Tutoring Program Coordinator Mac Phillips.  Mac was a classroom assistant to Miriam’s younger students for 5 months in 2010.  He says,

“there are so many reasons why I believe Miriam is one of the best teachers at Safe Passage. Miriam treats her students like human beings. It doesn't matter if they are 7 years old or 18 years old, she treats them as responsible students.

Mac Phillips tutoring a Safe Passage student.

“At Safe Passage, it’s easy to want to do everything possible to help.  Miriam demonstrates such a good balance of helping, but at the same time helps her kids grow to be independent and more self-sufficient so that they can help themselves. A perfect example of this occurred one morning last fall.  She couldn't come in to work that day. If anyone has ever been in a class with a substitute teacher, you know how difficult this can be! In this case, her tercer basico students (9th grade) have become so respectful, independent and self-sufficient, that they were left without a substitute teacher. The class went on as normal. The students took responsibility to request the materials for the day, they worked on their homework, they cleaned the classroom afterwards, and participated in all scheduled activities. If there was ever a day when I felt that we had accomplished something at Safe Passage, this was it! Not only are her kids passing their classes and working really hard, but they are also turning into wonderful people that are respectful, smart, and responsible.

“Guatemala is a very tough and unforgiving place at times. If you can't be independent and responsible for yourself–and possibly your family–this place can tear you down. I truly believe that these students are not only going to make it on their own, but I believe they are going to be good mothers, fathers, neighbors, and are going to contribute positively to society.”

Her students second that sentiment.  9th grader, Monica Gonzalez who has had Miriam as a teacher for the last five years says that her favorite part of being in her class is, “that there is order and discipline and that there is camaraderie among the whole class.”  Classmate Ramiro Hernandez says similarly that his favorite part of his four years in Miriam’s classes has been, “sharing with his classmates and helping one another out.”

Thank you, teachers of Safe Passage!!

If you would like to support the work of these or any of our other dedicated teachers, click hereto learn more about how you can sponsor a classroom.

Related Post

November 13, 2020

Student Stories: Meet Maida & Gabriela

Meet Maida & Gabriela, two students at Safe Passage

October 21, 2020

Challenges & Changes

Typically, October in Guatemala means the end of the