A Semester in the Life of a Teacher

By: Erica Ause

Teaching anywhere is never the same from one day to the next. And here it is no different. With smaller classes and an interesting environment, there are many ways to keep class lively! Next year I will be teaching mainly math and science for grades 2-8, as well as PE. The T-shirt pictured above is my Math Test Day Shirt, and I hope it will give the kids something to laugh about on otherwise stressful days!
This semester in writing the students learned how to write essays, as well as fictional stories. For their writers celebration, they read aloud the work they had done and then displayed the long and hard process they took to get from their first idea to their final draft. The whole team was invited, and everyone was really impressed by all their hard work!
Science was filled with experiments, presentations, and STEM activities. The students melted chocolate in a self-made a solar oven, discovered what material was the best type of insulation, shared presentations on Archimedes, explored how light reflects, and saw first hand magnetism caused by electricity (seen in the video above).
We had a special guest come to class to take apart my broken cell phone. He is the brother of a team member who was visiting for a couple weeks, and blew the children away with all that was hiding inside the little thing. It was sad to see my phone taken apart, but we did it for science!
They really got moving this term in PE with Zumba classes from a visiting doctor, and dance lessons from three of our teammates. They learned line dancing, and a whole hip hop choreography that they will present on the last day of school. They worked really hard, and loved every minute of it!
Gymnastics was another fan favorite of this year. They practiced balance and team work while making really cool poses and routines. They are not as easy as they look.
I'm not sure if this is because I am the PE teacher, or because my class is all boys, but breaks are usually spent getting some extra time at the gym. It's fun to teach them new ways to get stronger, and to watch them enjoy exercising.
One of the unique parts about this school is that we have something called Learning Experience Days. These are when we spend the day learning about something outside of curriculum. This semester, we explored outer space, the eye, and milk. A doctor who is here for a few months has his masters in space studies, so we felt very fortunate to learn about it from an expert! The first three pictures are from this day. We saw a student in a makeshift astronaut uniform (helmet is Tupperware), and how big the solar system is on a smaller scale, amoung other things. The picture on the top right is the day when we learned about the eye. The same doctor who studied space, is... you guessed it... an ophthalmologist. So, he also taught us about the parts and the function of the eye. The picture here is of a student dissecting one of the many goat eyes he was able to buy. Some of the kids really got into that one! The last five pictures are of our milk day. We went to the home of a hospital employee who has many animals and saw how cows are milked, fed and taken care of. It was a beautiful farm and helped us understand the difference between how we get the raw milk we drink here, and the milk we drink in the Western World.
And of course there are many ways that school spills over into my every day life. From having students help me organize the PE materials, waking up early to put fake snow out to announce the "snow day", celebrating my birthday with a cucumber and carrot snack (in the shape of a flower), and reading to the young ones who will be in school in just a few years. There are so many ways that being a teacher impacts my life outside of the classroom, and that I wouldn't any of it!


Seven Soekens in Burundi

Hi! We are the Soeken family! There are seven of us. Tim (dad), Rachel (mom), Timothy (13), Stephen (9), Carey (7), Joseph (5), and Samantha (2). We have temporarily joined the Kibuye team for the period of February – May, 2022. We are loving it! Since you may have seen us in random photos or heard mention of us, we were invited to write a short introduction to our family.

Tim (dad) is a US Air Force ophthalmologist. This academic year Tim is completing a Global Ophthalmology fellowship for the Air Force via the University of Michigan. This year has included trips to Kenya, India, time in in Michigan, and now almost 5 months at Kibuye. After we complete our time here in mid May, Tim will return to active duty and will help lead all the humanitarian ophthalmology mission trips on behalf of the US military.

Rachel (mom) stays home with the kids. This spring Rachel is doing part time home school, learning a little bit of French, and trying to keep the family running on all cylinders. She is helping to teach elementary Art once a week at KHA. That has been so fun for her to be involved in the school in this way. She also loves going up to hold babies in the NICU. The hospital is an amazing place for sure! 

Our kids are Timothy-7th grade, Stephen-3rd grade, Carey-1st grade, Joseph- 5 years old and Samantha-2. All the kids are LOVING Kibuye life. The older three kids attend KHA for about half their subjects and stay at home for math and reading. The two littlest just enjoy playing at home. Each of our kids have asked at different times if we can stay forever! They have loved being outside and making new friends. One of their favorite new things about Burundi is the wild chameleons. We have a new one in the house about once a week! They like to keep them for a couple days and then let them go. They are so cool! 


What does Tim do while he is in Kibuye for this Global Ophthalmology fellowship? Tim works with 2 ophthalmologists and 2 ophthalmic clinical officers. You may have seen them over time. From left to right, there is Dr. Leopold (ophthalmologist), Emmanuel (OCO), Herve (OCO) and Dr. Jean Claude (retina specialist). Tim has previously completed a cornea fellowship so he spends some of his time teaching best practices for cornea here and some of his time is spent learning how to practice ophthalmology in a low resource setting. Tim thinks the world of each of these four men and would happily work with them for a lifetime if he could! They are all incredible clinicians, surgeons, mentors and friends. 


Below are a few of Tim’s favorite stories from work here in Burundi. This is Saleche. This is a great visual example of the bilateral blinding cataracts that we see here every day. He walked in guided by a caretaker because he could only see light. After the patch was removed on post-op day 1, he could see again from his new left eye! The funny side note here is that he was so excited to walk around the clinic by himself, since he could finally see from his left eye, that he walked his right shoulder into the door quite dramatically. He hopes to return to have his right cataract removed soon!

This is the BEST story! Isaac is a 10 year old boy that I met early last week. He presented

one week after he was hit in the eye. He had what we call a hyphema. Initially it was not

concerning, so we just treated him medically. However, within 2 days his eye pressure sky

rocketed and we increased medical therapy and recommended that he have a “washout” of the

blood the following morning. Unfortunately, Isaac did not show up the next morning. He did

not return for a whole week. And, when he did his eye pressure was even higher and he was

100% BLIND in that eye. I was devastated. And to make it worse, he father had just paid for the

surgery. I was very conflicted but agreed to still perform the surgery. I honestly do not think

that the boy or his father understood the situation. I told Rachel about the situation, and told

her of my total hopeless outlook. But, Rachel being Rachel said, “OK, I will pray for him.” I

thanked her for her kind gesture, but I still expected only a depressing outcome. I went and did

the surgery. Nothing unexpected happened during the surgery. The boy went to sleep. I

prepped the eye, washed out blood, removed a large blood clot, and sutured the single small

incision. The eye was patched and the boy awoken and taken to recover overnight. The next

day I was seeing the usual flow of post-ops and I was handed his chart. On the place for vision

for his right eye I saw “6/24”. I expected “NPL” (no light perception, how we write total

blindness). I asked someone to verify, I said they probably checked the wrong eye, it should say

“NPL”. But, I was wrong. Isaac could see! What a happy surprise! I was totally wrong! God is


Kibuye has really become a home away from home! We love it here! The community has been so welcoming and we know we have made friends for life. What a joy and blessing it has been to our family to be here for this short time!