Portraits-31The heart and soul of La Puerta Abierta begins with our local staff of eight and our executive director, many who have been a part of our program since it’s inception ten years ago .  We value the support of parents at our center- believing that “it takes a village” to educate our youth.  Families are encouraged to actively participate in their child’s education at  la Puerta Abierta. In addition, our center has collaborated with volunteers and educators from around the world to complement our mission of sharing creative and innovative teaching practices with the youth of Santiago Atitlan.  We continue to work with partnering NGOS, welcoming the opportunity to grow, exchange ideas and learn with others.

Meet our team:

 Amanda– Director and Co-Founder

Amanda taught bilingual elementary education in Oakland, California. She  graduated from UC Berkeley with a focus in education and Spanish. Amanda arrived in Guatemala in 2003 as a Peace Corps volunteer.  While she never imagined that she would be planting her roots in rural Guatemala, she couldn’t be happier living in a colorful rural village with her husband, two rambunctious daughters and equally rambunctious dogs.  Amanda feels fortunate to have work that is creative, meaningful, and keeps her connected to the playful spirit of children.





School Portraits-3071Juanita–Technical Director and 1st Grade Teacher

Juanita began volunteering at La Puerta Abierta as a high-school student and currently is the  backbone of our center.  In addition to working at La Puerta Abierta, she is studying Psychology at the university with the goal of opening a mental health support center in our community.  She enjoys being outdoors, spending time with her family (she is the eldest of four sisters) and reading.






School Portraits-2952Isa–Preschool Coordinator and English Teacher

Before working formally at our center, Isa volunteered at La Puerta Abierta as a Natik high-school scholarship student.  She was inspired by our teaching practices and began working at our center soon after she graduated from teaching school.  In addition to teaching preschool, Isa also teaches English at our center.  She is bi-lingual and aspires to open a language school in Santiago in the future.   Isa likes drawing, singing, taking pictures, and is passionate about being a teacher.






School Portraits-3040Chonita–Early Stimulation Coordinator and Kindergarten Teacher

Chonita joined our team at La Puerta Abierta in our first year of existence and has helped shape our literacy programs, preschool classes, early stimulation classes, and the Traveling Library.  Currently she co-teaches kindergarten and oversees our early stimulation classes.  Three things that bring joy to Chonita are painting, embroidering, and interacting with children.






School Portraits-3038

Candelaria–Lead Teacher

Candelaria also began at La Puerta Abierta as a volunteer while she was in high-school.  She has evolved into the lead teacher at our center with a focus on kindergarten.  In addition to working at La Puerta Abierta, she also coordinates the Natik scholarship program and mentors a group of 30 local high-school students.  Three things that make Candelaria happy are bead work, teaching children, and her family.






School Portraits-3081Isaias–Traveling Library Coordinator

Isaias visits eight schools and community centers throughout the week bringing story hour and creative activities to rural school children.  He travels on the back of a pick-up truck and brings his supplies with him in a back-pack.  When Isaias visits his schools, the children shout, “Here comes the story teacher!”  Isaias is studying psychology  and enjoys working with teens.  He currently oversees our teen reading circle.  He enjoys dancing, photography, and eating spaghetti with salad.






School Portraits-3097Ana–Library Coordinator and Preschool Teacher

Ana first learned about La Puerta Abierta when she enrolled her son in our preschool.  She began collaborating with our programs as a parent volunteer and now manages our library collection.  In addition, Ana is a pre-school teacher at our center.  In the past, Ana has worked with the Traveling Library and has been a reading promoter in our community.  Ana enjoys reading children’s books, cooking, and aerobic dancing.





EllenEllen Molander — Academic Director. 

Ellen is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. She earned her degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Ohio in 2007. Ellen has made Lake Atitlan, Guatemala her home for the last seven years, and has many years of experience working in bilingual education. Ellen is working with the teachers of the Puerta Abierta providing classroom support, professional development training, and curriculum development.






Karen G. Hedrick received a B.A. in history from San Diego State University and an M.Ed. from United States’ International University. She taught elementary school in San Diego for over 25 years until her retirement and is now teaching English to middle school students in Spokane WA . She has taught in Spain and has volunteered in Guatemala for nearly 10 years. Karen met Amanda in 2005 when they developed an instant rapport over their mutual concerns with the educational needs of the Mayan children and families of Santiago, Atitlan. The genesis of La Biblioteca Puerta Abierta was born and Karen has maintained her interest and support for this dynamic and growing educational center ever since, visiting often with books, donations, volunteers, and love.