“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.” – Japanese proverb
Daniel Fernandez-Davilla is the type of teacher that his students will describe with great relish to their children and grandchildren. Stories of his travels, and of the adventures he has shared with former students who joined him on expeditions to his native Peru, punctuate his middle school social studies lessons.
To Daniel, the walls of his suburban Boston classroom are artificial barriers that stop students from realizing what they can accomplish and how they might contribute to the world.
If they are to appreciate archeology and history, they must literally get their hands dirty. If they are to understand their own culture, they must experience the cultures of others. If they are to be scholars, they must explore new things and discover knowledge. If they are to build faith in themselves, they must take on physical, intellectual and emotional challenges that test their mettle. It’s heady stuff for young adolescents. Daniel has shown, year after year, that his students can handle the demands, and even exceed their own expectations.
This is a true story of a teacher who makes the world his classroom. Every summer since 2007, Daniel Fernandez has brought both adults and middle schoolers on a challenging adventure worthy of Indiana Jones. They ride horses and hike through desert, tropical rainforest and the thin air of the Andes, bringing much-needed school supplies to the children in the isolated villages of the Chachapoyas in Northern Peru.
It is a humbling ordeal, especially for the suburban American students whose lives bear little resemblance to this remote world. On the journey, the students learn about themselves and how they fit in the world. They grow acutely aware of the assumptions they have made about how they and others live.
Take pencils: an afterthought at best to most American students, but a scarce commodity to children in the Peruvian highlands. When one American student, Matt, asked Daniel how he could help, Daniel suggested that he gather spare pencils at their school. A few months later, when he gave the hundreds of castaway pencils
Matt saw how his classmates’ trash was these students’ treasures.