Teacher Professional Development Program

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Teacher Professional Development Program


Education for Sustainability in Galapagos (ESG) Teacher Professional Development Program


Ecuador’s Ministry of Education, Fundación Scalesia, the Simmons School of Education and Human Development (Southern Methodist University), and Teachers-to-Teachers Global


All 375+ Pre K-12 teachers, 30 school directors and sub-directors, and 7,500 students in Galapagos


See below


Launched in April 2016; ongoing through through 2021


Teachers in Galapagos

Photo © Buró Comunicación Integral



The 5-year Education for Sustainability in Galapagos (ESG) Program provides year-round, high-quality teacher professional development for the 375+ teachers and 30 school directors and sub-directors in Galapagos. The training is designed to ensure that all 7,500 school age children in Galapagos receive high-quality education that helps them to develop the skills, knowledge and desire to contribute to a more sustainable Galapagos.

The program is guided by the principles of Education for Sustainability — an approach that helps young people to understand the inter-connectedness of the social, environmental, political, and economic issues affecting their communities and the world beyond, and prepares them to act on their knowledge to make a positive difference in their communities.

Program Need

Historically, Galapagos education has faced chronic challenges: due to the isolation of the Islands, teachers received little training in effective pedagogical practices or the content of areas they teach; instruction relied heavily on rote memorization; and past curricula failed to develop competencies required in the local work place or for university study. National standardized tests confirm that the performance of Galapagos students is below that of their counterparts on the mainland, across all subject areas and in the areas of verbal, reasoning, and abstract thinking skills.

Program Activities

The ESG Program was designed based on the findings of a participatory needs assessment, known as the Listening Phase, conducted in 2014. Through this process and additional dialogue among program partners, we embarked on a program that delivers high-quality, research-based professional development for preK-12th grade teachers in core subject areas: mathematics, science, language arts and social studies, as well as English language. Additionally, the program is forming a core of 40 peer mentors/instructional coaches and offers training in education leadership to all school directors.

The program is based on research that shows that teacher professional development workshops have limited impact if they are not complemented by ongoing teacher support and teacher-teacher interactions. The three program components include:

Bi-annual Teacher Institutes. Every June and October, approximately 400 Galapagos educators participate in 50 hours of professional development delivered by subject area and grade bands. Trainers model effective teaching strategies and help teachers to develop the skills needed to convert learning objectives of the national curriculum into effective lesson plans and units that incorporate local and global sustainability issues. On Santa Cruz, the training takes place at the Tomás de Berlanga School, which aspires to become a demonstration site of best practices in action and a teacher training ground.

Ongoing coaching. Experienced instructional coaches observe each teacher in their classroom at least three times a year and conduct individual feedback sessions during which teachers are encouraged to reflect on their practice.

Professional learning circles. Groups of educators teaching similar subjects and grades participate in bi-monthly sessions during which they share experiences and address shared challenges.

Training is provided by a group of Galapagos-based instructional coaches and an international Advisory Team of like-minded education specialists from Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and the United States.

A rigorous monitoring and evaluation (M&E) program is coordinated by the Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) at Southern Methodist University and supported by Grupo Faro, a Quito-based think tank. M&E includes participant satisfaction surveys, attitudinal surveys, review of workshop plans, observations of workshop delivery, coaching and teachers in their classrooms, and focus groups (teachers and school directors). Participation surveys tell us that teacher satisfaction remains extremely high. Teacher and School Director Attitudinal Studies reveal a significant improvement in “grit” (perseverance and passion for long-term goals) and “growth mindset” (the extent to which respondents believe that their abilities can be developed through dedication, hard work and training) during the first two years of the program.

Click to enlarge:

Teacher Professional Development Diagram

Achievements to Date:

  • Six 50-hour Teacher Institutes for over 375 teachers and 30 school administrators.
  • More than 1,000 individual coaching sessions.
  • Ongoing professional learning circles (teachers participate in 8-10 two-hour learning circle sessions per year).
  • Anecdotal evidence of positive change in many classrooms.
  • Documented increase in “grit” and “growth mindset” of teachers and school directors.


The ESG Program is possible thanks to the generosity of foundations (Tinker Foundation, The Bay and Paul Foundations, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund, Galapagos Conservation Trust, Philecology Foundation and the Shaffner Family Foundation) and individuals (Gretchen Bauta, Kirke Lathrop, Judie Muggia, Ken and Diane Saladin, Kathleen Diamond, Cleve and Rae Hickman, Elizabeth Javens, Sally Kleberg, Carol Piras, Moritz Foundation, Katie Burdick, Emily Shepherd, Janice Swab, Judy and Normand Smith.

Current Needs

GC seeks additional funding for:

  • Coach salaries and operations for math, science, English language and lesson study focused on Education for Sustainability.
  • Future Teacher Institutes and short-term assignments of education specialists.
  • Editing of training materials for publication and distribution in and beyond Galapagos.
  • Adjusting our model to ensure long-term impact in Galapagos and replication in other remote locations.
  • Scaling the program to reach larger populations of educators in less isolated areas.


Read: Can K-12 Education Save Galapagos? by Richard Knab.

For more information, please send us an email.

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