Educator Eric Kaufmann ’14 Seeks to Change Lives in Nicaragua
March 21, 2018 — Eric Kaufmann ’14 is gearing up for a new adventure. After two years of teaching social studies at Mary Star of the Sea Elementary School in San Pedro, California, he will receive his master’s degree in special education from Loyola Marymount University in May. Then it’s off to the small town of El Tránsito, Nicaragua to teach a new group of kids, using technology to enhance the quality of the instruction they receive and increase the chances they’ll get into college. In a country where a university education can lift entire families out of poverty, that’s a big deal.
While living in Nicaragua, Kaufmann will serve as Community Center CREA Program Director. CREA (which stands for Connect, Reinforce, Educate, and Advance) is a blended learning program that combines online lessons with face-to-face instruction to help children become college-ready. Particularly in rural Nicaragua, weak infrastructure and limited opportunities can hamper educational outcomes. In fact, the vast majority of high school seniors who take the entrance exams for Nicaragua’s national universities fail them, so CREA aims for early intervention. In El Tránsito, Kaufmann will lead a team of five teachers and assistants to deliver additional math and English instruction to better prepare elementary school students to pass the entrance exams and receive scholarships to attend university. The CREA program was created by a US-based not-for-profit organization called NICA Fund, which works to elevate rural communities throughout Nicaragua by mobilizing the efforts of local residents.
Kaufmann is well equipped for this new challenge, having spent the last two years in the PLACE Corps, Loyola Marymount’s nationally recognized Catholic teacher service corps. PLACE Corps members earn a master’s degree and teaching credential while serving as full-time teachers in under-resourced Catholic schools in the (Arch) Dioceses of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino. During their two-year commitment, program members live with one another in community while exploring and strengthening shared values rooted in Catholicism and social justice. Said Kaufmann, “It’s been a challenge, but I’ve built lifelong friendships and gained excellent teaching experience.”
Indeed, Kaufmann’s stellar performance as a teacher in California earned him the Catholic School Educator Award, and he credits his Marist experience with preparing him for success: “The time I have spent in Los Angeles as both a teacher and graduate student has been an amazing experience, but I truly would not be where I am today without the guidance offered to me by Associate Dean for Teacher Education Ed Sullivan and the other professors from Marist.” Responded Dr. Sullivan, “Eric is an exceptional person who is very committed to the concept of social justice. We’re all incredibly proud of him.”
Kaufmann received his BA in history and adolescent education and studied abroad in New Zealand. After graduating from the College, he also taught at-risk children in the City of Poughkeepsie through the Circle of Courage alternative program. He promises to keep his Marist family in the loop as he begins his next journey.
Located on the banks of the historic Hudson River and at its Florence, Italy campus, Marist College is a comprehensive, independent institution grounded in the liberal arts. Its mission is to “help students develop the intellect, character, and skills required for enlightened, ethical, and productive lives in the global community of the 21st century.” Marist is consistently recognized for excellence by The Princeton Review (Colleges That Create Futures and The Best 381 Colleges), U.S. News & World Report (9th Best Regional University/North), Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (“Best College Values”), and others. Though now independent, Marist remains committed to the ideals handed down from its founders, the Marist Brothers: excellence in education, a sense of community, and a commitment to service. Marist educates approximately 5,000 traditional-age undergraduate students and 1,400 adult and graduate students in 47 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate programs, including fully online MBA, MPA, MS, and MA degrees. www.marist.edu