Yachana Technical High School is a small boarding school in Amazon rainforest, on the banks of the Napo River. It’s run by Yachana Foundation, and it’s a twenty minute walk away from Yachana Lodge.
I’ve been living at the school and teaching English there for the past week. I’m working together with Javier, a teacher from Spain who recently started working at Yachana High School. English teachers are hard to come by in the Amazon region of Ecuador, and the students have only had a teacher during certain parts of the school year. So Javier and I are giving them as much instruction as we can in the remaining weeks of the school year.
The school has about sixty students, which come from six different provinces in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Some of them come from indigenous communities, and most are of indigenous descent. They stay at the school for periods of three weeks, and spend one week in between living at home.
Yachana High School specializes in teaching ecotourism and strongly encourages entrepreneurship. Students are taught using a practice based approach, so learning doesn’t take place only in the classroom. Yachana Lodge serves as a training center for the students, where they practice the different aspects of operating an ecotourism hotel. Students also learn about sustainable agriculture; they take care of goats and pigs, cultivate snails, do organic farming, and do maintenance work around the school.
After students graduate, many of them work in Ecuador’s ecotourism sector. The majority of tourists are American, so it’s important that students at Yachana High School become conversational in English. This past week Javier and I have been working with 10th and 11th grade, and we’ve been focusing on improving the students’ grammar and vocabulary. That way when they reach 12th grade they will have a solid grasp of the basics, and they will be able to move on to more in depth conversation.
Luckily, students are given plenty of chances to practice their English. Tourists staying at Yachana Lodge oftentimes visit to buy handicrafts made at the high school, and they are very interested in talking to students to learn about the school. When they work at Yachana Lodge, students also get a chance to speak in English with the tourists. Over the summer break, some of them have internships at Yachana and other lodges in Ecuador.
Living at the school has been a great experience. I’ve gotten to know many of the students and have learned a lot from them about Ecuador and its culture. It’s very fun to spend time with them; they always seem to be in good spirits and really enjoy having a good laugh. I’m going to be teaching them English for one more week until classes end, after which I’ll be working at Yachana Lodge on one of the Foundations’ various projects.
Photo © Frank Sánchez