Nearly six years have passed since Amy Hoogeveen first stepped foot in Nicaragua to begin her international teaching adventure there. In that time, the daughter of Phil and Barb Hoogeveen of Sully has become more accustomed to the Nicaraguan culture and grown in many ways as a teacher.
For Hoogeveen’s first three years in Nicaragua, she was a fourth-grade teacher at Nicaragua Christian Academy (NCA) in the capital city of Managua. NCA is an English-speaking school and all classes, except Span-ish, are taught in English. The regular classroom teachers are all from the U.S. or Canada, and the majority of students are Nicaraguan English language learners, though there are a few missionary kids as well. All students have one hour of Spanish class each day where they learn Spanish language arts and Nicaraguan history.
Three years ago, after three years teaching fourth grade at NCA, a learning resources position opened up, and Hoogeveen decided to make the switch.
“I had been doing a lot of after-school tutoring and working one-on-one with different students, and I really came to enjoy that and saw a lot of the individual needs our students have,” Hoogeveen said. “Now, I work with students from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade.”
Hoogeveen pours herself into her students, helping the younger ones learn to read and build math skills and the older ones with their homework, organization, and study skills. While she misses the fun things she could do in the fourth-grade classroom, Hoogeveen loves the variety of her current position and working with all different ages.
Since 2014, the small-town Iowa girl has definitely become more “at home” in Nicaragua and is more familiar with the Nicaraguan culture and language. She’s been getting to know more of the Nicaraguan staff at the school, and like her students, Hoogeveen has dedicated time to her own learning journey by taking Spanish classes.
One of the biggest highlights for Hoogeveen as she looks back at the last six years is the many ways she has grown as a teacher. “Each year is different, and each student is unique,” she said, “so I am continually learning new things and trying new strategies with them.”
Another highlight for her has been being one of the directors of the middle/high school musical. This year, grades 7-12 performed “Annie,” putting on three excellent shows the first full weekend in March. “We had 31 cast members, plus about 20 more students involved in other ways,” Hoogeveen said. “It's a lot of work, but the results were worth it.”
Of course, while there have been many highlights for Hoog-eveen, her six years in a foreign country haven’t been without its challenges. The biggest of which was the civil unrest Nicaragua experienced in 2018.
In April 2018, Hoogeveen explained, the government made some social security policy changes that sparked a series of violent protests where over 300 people were killed and many more were injured or imprisoned. After about a month of going to school maybe once or twice a week, the NCA administration decided to close school about a month earlier than normal and finish the year with online classes.
“The area where I live and where the school is located remained relatively safe and away from the violence, but I did fly back home (to Sully) early that May,” Hoogeveen said. “Since then, the situation has calmed considerably, but tensions between the government and the people still remain high.”
One change for Hoogeveen since living in Nicaragua has been moving into a small house that is a little farther from the school. “It is in a nice area with lots of shade trees that keep things cooler (no air conditioning!),” she said.
Regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Hoogeveen said on Mar. 17 that so far there have been no confirmed cases in Nicaragua but starting that day, her school began taking the temperature of everyone who enters as a way to monitor themselves.
The 2019-20 school year is the last year of Hoogeveen’s three-year contract at the school. After this, she will have yearly contracts. Hoogeveen usually comes back to Iowa for Christmas vacation and summer break each year, so she plans to be in the U.S. this summer. Then, in August, she’ll be back at NCA, ready to invest in students’ lives for year seven.