Saying Goodbye to Linda Blackwell
Mayatan is sorry to announce that we are losing a long-time volunteer teacher and administrator. This week, Linda Blackwell and her husband Emory are heading back to their home in McMinnville, Oregon, after nearly eight years in Honduras. The school and Copán won’t be the same without these affable, dedicated, silver-haired stars of our community.
Linda, who was most recently the Director of Development for four years, originally came to Mayatan in the Fall of 2004. She and Emory discovered the school on TeachAbroad.com. Emory was teaching ESL at a public library following a long career as a teacher and coach for football and wrestling. The couple were retired, their daughter was through her first year of college, and they were growing a little bored.
At the time, Mayatan had two jobs open. The couple thought, “Oh, we can do that for a year. Then it turned into much more.” Their family and friends in the U.S. thought they were nuts, of course, but their daughter, Megan, was really supportive. Megan didn’t know that it would be such a long commitment. (She has come down every year except one at Christmas, and Linda and Emory have gone back every summer.)
When they arrived, Emory was a 5th grade teacher, and he moved with the same class to 6th grade (today’s 12th graders). Linda started in 2nd grade and went all the way to 5th grade with her kids (the current 9th grade).
Linda says that they stayed so long because “We liked the school and our relationships here, including to the founders like Nora, Mayra, and Maru.”
Among her favorite teaching experiences, Linda says that, “The first time I walked in my classroom, I started jabbering away in English, and my kids didn't understand, so I had to throw all my plans away. By Christmas, they were laughing at my jokes and understanding all of my stories. They learned fast. If you never speak Spanish, they learn real fast.
Both Linda and Emory took on a variety of jobs during their Mayatan tenure. Emory was Director of the school from 2005-2007. Linda became the Development Director in the fall of 2008-09. She was not teaching then but living in San Pedro Sula, where Emory was tutoring a student with special needs. The Development Director position was open and the school needed help, so Linda agreed to do it temporarily. Four years later, she was still here.
Linda reports that she loved getting money, especially surprising money, to help kids who really, really need. “It feels good to make the parents so happy.” She recalls when the father of a 1st grader came in to get a scholarship application in PK. He carried a bank statement that showed that tuition, books, and registration would be half of his income. He said they’d sacrifice anything for her to be here. They did so for two years, after which the school was able to increase her scholarship to a full tuition.
The Blackwells have seen a lot of Copán and Honduras. They have lived all over town in Las Vegas, Buena Vista, and then across the street from the school. The latter is their favorite spot because it’s cool, quiet, and has outdoor space.
During her last week here, Linda said that she was “ready to be going back. At the same time, I’m sad. I’ll be missing all the kids. As well as I know them, it would be hard to leave them at anytime, even two years ago. [In the U.S.A.,] I’ll always have water, I’ll always have electricity, but … I’ll see if we can handle the weather in Oregon.”
Linda thinks the hardest part of the transition will be in the fall—not getting ready to return to school after all these years. She says that she will miss the weather and the people most, especially her Honduran friends’ “honest warmth.” She mentions Jenny and Rigo, Juan Angel and Nora, Mayra and Jose Raul, Mauricio and Maru, Pat and Lloyd at the Bird Park, and so many others. In addition, Emory has many private students for his English classes that he’s gotten to know. “He’s the only one who does this in town,” so there will be a real gap when he goes.
Before she left, Linda reflected upon watching school grow into what it is today from when they first got here. At the time, the primary school had just moved into the building at the top of the hill. It was very much a place in transition, very muddy from the construction, and there was no grass yet. The school was PK-9th grade only, Lindsay Hill was the terrific Director, and there were well under the 300 kids we have today. She’s watched the grass and plants grow, the enrollment increase, the academics improve, the addition of the high school, and the overall increasing level of organization, quality, and solidification of the school in the hearts and minds of Copanecos.
Thanks for being a part of that!
Through June 2012, Linda Blackwell’s duties will be assumed by Tommy Flint, the incoming Director of Development (email@example.com), and David Harrington, the Fundraising Director (firstname.lastname@example.org), who worked with Linda for two years. The positions will be merged and Tommy will assume all responsibilities when David leaves in June.