Meet Carol Caceres Jimenez, the principal and owner of Galápagos Language Academy in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galápagos.
For the past couple of years Carol has been running our Toucanto Spanish program in the Galápagos Islands, providing practical, oral based learning in a fun, friendly environment, while inspiring our families to practise their new skills in the wider community.
At Toucanto we believe one of our strengths is in the warm, human relationships our families are able to form during our programs with the people of Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. They are renowned for their warmth, hospitality and generosity, qualities that Carol embodies in abundance. This is Carol’s story:
‘I was born in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, in 1984. My parents moved to the Galapagos Islands for work, specifically to the island of San Cristóbal, when I was only 2 years old. Afterwards, when I was 5 years old, my parents decided to move again but this time to the island of Santa Cruz. This is where I studied, grew up and began the Galapagos Language Academy in 2009.
I always say that the academy began on its own. The need to have a place where children and youth could learn English correctly was so great that it drove me to start an educational centre that could satisfy this need. After returning from a year abroad in the United Kingdom, many of my friends asked if I could teach English to their children. I was not a teacher at the time; in fact, I had just completed my law degree. However, because I had been to England, my friends assumed that I could teach their children, even if it was just the basics of the language. Their insistence made me accept and I converted my living room into a classroom which consisted of 4 students, a table, and 4 small chairs. The word quickly spread throughout this small community. More and more children began to arrive and eventually, teenagers came to class which meant I had to buy some bigger chairs and tables. In one year, I was teaching approximately 30 students and I decided to name the school ‘Teens and Kids’. The name, however, did not last long because not long after, adults began to show up for classes. They not only needed to learn English but other languages as well for their jobs in the tourism industry in which most people on the island worked. It is this way that since 2012 we go by Galapagos Language Academy. The academy continues operating in my childhood home which I have been gradually transforming and changing. What were once bedrooms are now classrooms and administrative offices.
At this moment, the academy has around 300 students of all ages attending from the community. They come to learn English as well as other languages such as Dutch and French. We also teach foreigners who arrive from all over the world to learn Spanish. During this whole process, I had to change careers and return to university to train in teaching. I got certified as a teacher of Spanish as a foreign language in Ecuador and Spain to ensure I could offer the best educational services to my community. It eventually became necessary to hire other teachers. At first, we worked solely with volunteers that arrived from different countries to help teach, such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Nowadays, we work with a staff of approximately 10 teachers, both paid and volunteers, who are mostly native speakers.
My hope for the future is to continue this work and extend it to the rest of the inhabited islands of the Galapagos. Especially to San Cristóbal and Isabela where there is a great need to learn other languages.
The Bellavista centre:
The extended centre of GLA Bellavista was created approximately 5 years ago. It accounts for a need in the highland communities of the island where there are approximately 3,000 inhabitants. The people mainly work in agriculture and cattle farming and have weak purchasing power compared to other Puerto Ayora locals. The children and youth who were living in the highlands and were attending the academy in Puerto Ayora to learn English had a long journey to travel. Most of them have no access to private transportation and depend on public transport which is not very efficient. They would commonly arrive late or wet to class, especially in the months of June to November when the climate is fairly cold and rainy. These conditions are even worse in the highlands. Therefore, I decided to introduce a classroom extension of our academy where students from the whole highland community could efficiently access lessons without the extra burden of the cost of transport.’