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January Friday

“Literacy pointed me towards more than half a century as a teacher”



At just 10 years old, Ileana Alvarez Pacheco joined the Literacy Campaign, a feat that marked her path and passion as an educator for the following 51 years. Today, despite her age and ailments, she remains as firm as in day one in the magic realm of teaching.

Friends from the neighborhood, older than her, signed up for the campaign. She insisted on joining and her mother took her, so she became a popular literacy teacher in her hometown, Santa Clara.

Ileana remembers that she always went with her mother. Among her favorite anecdotes is one of a disabled lady in a wheelchair who had a large altar in her home in front of which she had to pray before the beginning of each session.

“She was already an elderly woman but was very eager to learn, so I managed to teach her to read and write,” Ileana says, “which became a source of great pride at my early age.”

Literacy was for everyone, she added, but many of the trainees lacked the required muscle control to write and had to be held by the hand to make the strokes. “I even taught my mother, who was also illiterate.”

When Commander in Chief Fidel Castro declared Cuba free of illiteracy on December 22, 1961, Ileana felt proud. She was still a little girl, but she had unknowingly chosen her future path in life.

Nowadays she teaches History to 12th grade students at the Ernesto Guevara Pre-University Institute of Exact Sciences in the city of Villa Clara.

“At home we are all teachers, even my daughter. I had to retire and I was away from school for a while due to illness, but when I finished chemotherapy I came back. I adore my students, they take care of me and I love them,” she stressed.

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