Local educators help transform Honduran schools

PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- Some central Indiana educators are starting the new school year with a brand new perspective.

A group of educators spent time this summer helping teachers and students in Honduras through "HETO," which stands for "Heart in Education Teacher Outreach."

In 2004, an Indianapolis teacher founded HETO after seeing the need in Honduras. Now, Indiana educators keep the mission going by organizing and funding local groups each summer, bringing their teaching methods and school supplies to the area. The group has transformed schools and even built a brand new kindergarten, which opened last summer.

"We’ll have two different groups that go down during the summer. We deliver school supplies, we do professional development for the teachers and then another group will generally do some small construction projects," said Ann Mennonno, HETO Board President. Mennonno, a second grade teacher at Clarks Creek Elementary in Plainfield, has now traveled to Honduras 13 times in the last 10 years.

"I just absolutely fell in love with the country and fell in love with the mission of the group. The way to help people out of poverty is education, it’s a long-term fix," Mennonno said.

The principal of Plainfield’s Brentwood Elementary school, Nicole Walker, agreed with HETO's mission and decided to travel with the group for the first time this summer.

"I was ready to get beyond myself, ready to do something different," Walker said.

Walker says she knew there would be differences between home and Honduras, but she also realized the educators there had the same goals as their group.

"I see passionate teachers, and that’s not different from United States teachers," Walker said.

"The experience changed me more than I helped and changed them. I absolutely came back a different person, a different mother, a different wife, a different woman," Walker said.

Mennonno knows that feeling as well.

"It's changed me as an educator. I'm more culturally aware in the classroom," Mennonno said.

"Bringing back my experiences to the classroom, even with second graders, and helping them understand that we live in a very big world that’s actually really small. Helping them see there’s more beyond the walls in Plainfield. I always say, it doesn’t matter where you help, just help someone," Mennonno said.

Besides Mennonno and Walker, the group also had educators from Zionsville, Westfiled and IPS schools. If you’re interested in donating to HETO or traveling with the group, click here.