A Day in the Life of Miss Van Kannel

I didn’t quite know where to start for a blog post for this month. Then, Auntie Debbie asked for a “Day in the Life of Miss Van Kannel.” Perfect! So, here you are:

4:50 – Alarm goes off.

5:00 – 5-ish km run (This doesn’t sound all that exciting, but trust me, it can be. Dogs of all sizes and demeanors run out after us at any given time. You run in groups for safety (not just from the dogs), yell “HEY!” and slow to a walk until you pass the dogs. Also, the roads along our route are a mix of pavement, brick cobblestone-type things, and dirt with MANY potholes and deep ruts (think: completely impassible by most vehicles). There are also countless strange smells. Most not good. Then the mystery liquid puddles (sanitation isn’t the same here by any stretch of the imagination). And sometimes people who like to call encouragement at us (admittedly, we stand out – 7 white girls running in Nica draws some attention).

6:20 – Leave for school. Prepare for the day in the quiet classroom.

6:50 – Prayer/fellowship/testimony time that I take with an amazing Nicaraguan woman in our school’s prayer garden

7:00 – Whole staff devotions (I have to lead one week each year.)

7:20 – Kids start entering the classroom. We do morning calendar, jobs, and prayer.

7:45 – Some of my students leave for English Language classes. While only 7 out of 27 of my students are native English speakers, some of the Spanish kids no longer require intensive, small group language practice, so I keep 16 kids.

8:30 – Reading! My favourite time of the day. The students work at various centres and I get to meet with students in groups of 2-4 to focus their reading instruction.

9:15 – Writing, Snack. Woo. Normal stuff.15086200_10211452959829872_971651933_n

9:45 – Spanish. My students have 50 minutes of Spanish each day. They split into classes depending on their level of Spanish (native speakers, intermediate, and Spanish as a Second Language). This is when I do the vast majority of my prep (responding to emails, planning, cutting, photocopying, researching, and any other number of duties).

10:30 – Snack and Recess

10:45 – Math – I have a Grade 12 student assistant in my classroom during this time. She wants to be a teacher when she’s done school, so I am trying to mentor her and give her some small teaching opportunities. She is amazing.

11:45 – Bible – One of the kids’ favourite times of the day. We do worship, prayer, stories, service projects, reflections, and much more.

12:15 – Story! Another good time of day!

12:30 – Lunch & recess

1:00 – Science or Social (I teach each for half a year). Also pretty normal.

1:50 – “Specials” – it rotates as to what the kids have during this time (Computers, Art, PE, or Music). I usually have one meeting or another (with parents, the Special Ed team, or admin) during this time.

2:30 – Prayer & dismissal

2:45 – Depends on the day. I tutor a Grade 4 student on Mondays and Thursdays, attend a Spanish class on Tuesdays, and am starting an after-school dance class on Wednesdays. Fridays I usually hightail it out of there!

13958142_10154469457802276_7538222767385952983_o4:00 – Head for home

4:30 – Repack my lunch and get supper on

6:00 – Do schoolwork to get ready for the next day.

8:00 – Get ready to wind down and relax.

9:00 – Sleep.

And get ready to repeat!

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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Blogging Adventures


A Year in Review

It’s been too long. I know. And many of you usually receive a Christmas letter from me, too, and you may have noticed that your card got “lost” in the mail this year… So, two birds with one stone, I hope you can take a moment and enjoy reading my year-at-a-glance. Just click on the link below and it will open a PDF file with the letter:


Since I last posted, I have also tobogganed down an active volcano, my kids have done amazing presentations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and they led chapel, we built models in Social Studies, went caroling around the school, got a new student, and so much more. Here are a few pictures:


Being silly and showing how ridiculously excited we are that “God gives me grace!”


Some of my more advanced English language students learned about plays and wrote and performed their very own jungle play.



“Miss Van Kannel-in-Training”                   This was “Dress Like a Teacher Day.” I dressed in a student uniform and they dressed like me. Note the buns and ponytails, dresses, and OF COURSE the glasses!





Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Nica Life


It’s Not Just Temporary

The last three weeks have been pretty up and down. Overall, things are peachy keen. I am feeling a lot more settled this year than I was at this time last year, I will tell you that much! As I’ve started writing this, two iguanas have run past me seeking shelter as another mid-day tropical rain settles in.IMG_0822.JPG The neighbour scrambles to get her laundry. I hear fires crackling with lunch preparations, worship music blasting, and birds chirping. It feels normal and good. I’ve even gotten used to squishing the ants off of my hands and double-checking my coffee mug for bugs before I take a sip of my tea. I can kill a tarantula without flinching. I’ve started attending a Bible study with some lovely girls, running regularly again, striving to eat better, working towards building better relationships. And yet… Something feels off some days. This work and this life are still really, really hard some days.

A friend here is quite literally the exact opposite of me, so I trust her to be a good perspective for me in many things. After spending an evening together talking, she says, “I think this is what it is: You can do anything for a year. We are past that. Now this is real life. This is where many tensions and realities come out for the first time.” Yes. That’s what it is. This is not an adventure. img_0802This is not a trip. This is life. I am here for living. And this life gets just as messy as anyone else’s. I am planting roots. And that is sometimes painful, awkward, impossibly hard, and it reveals the less-than-glamourous sides of people and situations. Being able to recognize that has been really helpful and offers me a new hopefulness. These are just the growing pains of digging and settling into real life here.

I continue to learn more and more each day and God is shaping me and revealing Himself to me in absolutely astounding ways all the time, but this month He’s especially shown me that I just need to keep myself healthy. I don’t need to work and goal-set and practice and force growth every moment of every day. I can just keep myself healthy and He will do His work in growing me. So, I am simplifying expectations and guess what? After too long of feeling guilty for not loving well enough, forgiving often enough, or trusting deep enough, I took a step back and quit trying so hard. And I am better at those things now.

I. Did. Nothing.

I just let myself be open (by praying, learning, reading, and listening) and let God flow in and out and do all that hard work of loving. Because I sucked at it, but He is so, so good at it!


Some Fun Highlights of the Month:

Fiestas Patrias (this year we did a dance from the Atlantic Coast – much different from last year) – I also celebrated the holiday at the beach with lots of friends

Parent Conferences – one parent told us NCA is her son’s favourite school because he gets to worship there, and, “How cool is that, Mom?!” It is a lot of work, but I love conferencing with parents and sharing in conversations with them. This year I understood a lot more of what was being said and didn’t need all of it translated back into English for me. Success!


15 of the 25 lovable rugrats. This is the best picture we got from the day!

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Posted by on October 16, 2016 in Nica Life


(Culinary) Substitutions

I lost my glasses in the ocean this month. So, I thought I was buying parsley in the grocery store. It was fennel. Very. Different. But, with a quick Google search of fennel, I ended up making us some amazing baked potatoes for supper, and even opted to have them as a late night snack one night. I also tried to buy sweet potatoes another night and accidentally bought rutabaga. Ended up with a unique, tasty addition to our roasted veggies. We decided we might even prefer it.

That’s how my month has been. I got something I definitely hadn’t planned on, but it ended up alright, and helped me to find sweetness and nuggets of goodness that I wouldn’t have otherwise stumbled upon.

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Flowers at our new house. They live by the garbage pile. Another chance to take something bad and make it a little lovelier!  🙂

Our house was a disaster when we moved in, so we ended up with an amazing maid named Mariksa. There were several things not working in our house, so we got to know our neighbours’ hospitality. My luggage was gone and I was having zero luck getting it back, so I ended up being able to experience the kindness of five helpful staff members. The storms have been frequent, so I’ve been hugged, loved, and cared for by fellow teachers who eat lunch with me in the workroom instead of outside at the lunch table and beautifully sung to (Christmas carols, nonetheless!) by a very, very patient, sweet roommate who stays up until the last rumblings of thunder pass, my heartrate has returned to normal, and the tears have subsided. My massive class size this year and hugely long list of students with a little extra need for care, love, and accommodation meant that I was granted a full-time classroom aide, as well as extra support from volunteers. We have a tiny house, so we can only invite people over in twos or threes, and thus, we get to know people in smaller, more meaningful ways. My lost glasses allowed me to experience love and sacrifice and allowed me to make a new friend when she gave up her glasses for the week so that I had at least less vision loss.


It’s been a month of surprises. None of them started as a, “Woo! This is a great problem!” kind of thing. They were all pesky annoyances, troubles, fears, or challenges. But all of them ended in “substitutions” that were so much more pleasant due to their surprising nature. Like fennel and baked potatoes.

The ocean all pleased with itself for eating my glasses.



My glasses that were lost and were supposed to be replaced in about two weeks and who knows how much money took only one week and were cheaper than in Canada! So many of you joined in prayer and I know that made a difference! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I have an assistant full-time in my classroom, and an amazing support team, and the energy and excitement to take on all of the challenges!

We have not only a Special Ed team and program at school now, we also have really, really great, qualified volunteers and a Speech and Language Pathologist for the year (Nicaragua does not really have or train SLPs, so most kids that need it have never had any support in this area). This Special Ed team is AMAZING and several of my own students use their resources daily. Nicaragua is moving towards inclusive classrooms (don’t get me started on the celebrations and hesitations involved in this…), and our school has been visited by others seeking to learn more about inclusion.

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Our very own tiny home. It’s perfect.



Again this year I have students from all walks of life, some of which are dealing with some really serious stuff for 6-year-old kiddos. Please be in prayer for them, and that they might feel love, hope, and peace in our school walls.

This is an election year in Nicaragua. There is much doubt about it being a fair election, and all opposition has been removed already. It is being said that no outside media is allowed in to cover the election.

It is becoming more difficult for humanitarian and religious workers to be granted visas to the country.


I Never Thought I’d Ever… First Year Reflections

I Never Thought I’d Ever…

have a monkey brought for show and tell.

witness water gushing out of my electrical sockets and live to tell the tale.

hear and see rolling waves of lava.



vacation on a secluded Caribbean island for less than $500 (and snorkel with sharks and shipwrecks).get sent home from school unexpectedly due to political rioting.

have an actual earthquake evacuation.

want to go to the movies for a reason other than the movies. #AC

have a showerhead that catches fire and pitches smoke at me.

participate in a corrupt system by paying off a police officer to escape a fraudulent fine.

have a shower every day under something called a widow-maker.

have every creature on God’s green earth fly through or live in my classroom (iguanas, bats, birds, rats, ants, geckos, beetles, cockroaches, termites, and butterflies, to name a few).

watch a volcano erupt from our school office.

teach in 39-degree heat without AC (not counting humidity).

run 12 miles each week.          (in tropical 84% humidity and heat, too!)

get used to going to sleep to karaoke music.

sweat all the time.

be cold in 24-degree weather.

have a mariachi band hired for Teacher Appreciation Day.

love eating food from a stranger’s backyard for $1. Yum.


The year has come to an end. There were four of us single girls venturing into teaching and living here in Nicaragua for the first time together. It was so great to have them in this experience with me. So, we sat down and compiled this list of all of the interesting things from the year. All of them I personally experienced alongside them. What a year!

On another note, I made the kids celebrate Canada Day with me (June 1 instead of July 1) at school. We had beaver tails, sang the anthem in French and English, watched the RCMP Musical Ride, learned about Ogopogo and inukshuks, learned some French, and played hockey. The kids were absolutely hilarious and had a BLAST. They are begging to play hockey again soon.

A lot has been learned and experienced this year. I am excited to see what next year brings!


Posted by on June 5, 2016 in Nica Life



One of my students has a lot of challenges that makes school tough for him. One of these is that he has a maximum focus span of 2 minutes to the second (we’ve timed it in all activities from playing on the playground, to reading one on one, to watching a movie). However, one day he got down on his knees in the middle of writing class, bowed his head, and closed his eyes for a solid three minutes. As he was getting up off his knees I asked him what he was doing. He said, “Pray,” with the most joyful expression on his face. IMG_0613

This same student has incredibly low English and he has an extremely limited vocabulary, terrible word order, and low comprehension. But, he LOVES to pray. He is always one of the first to offer a word of praise, thanksgiving, or petition. This week he prayed for us at the end of the school day. He said, “God, you are strong. God, you are beautiful.” I don’t know where he got those words from – me, the Holy Spirit, chapel, or what. But THAT’S what he chooses to say in all of his limited vocabulary. He has immense trouble stringing a sentence together to tell me what he did on the weekend, but a prayer of praise with beautiful simplicity flows out of him with ease. What a precious moment.

IMG_0614My kids also had to vote on their favourite read-aloud for our library’s World Book Day. Guess what they chose completely on their own? The book of Judges…. We’ve been studying it in Bible class and they don’t want to leave for recess, they are so into the awesome stories.

This week we had grape juice and crackers while we sat in our community circle (a sharing circle) for a farewell party for one of their classmates and one student asked, “Is this like community at church?” I didn’t know what she was talking about and then I realized, “You mean communion?”  “Yes.”  “No. We are having a snack. Not communion.” But I turned my back for two minutes to refill cups and the whole class had their glasses raised, saying, “To Jesus! Yay! To Jesus! Yay!” Yes, we toast to Jesus in Grade 1 and pick the book of Judges as our all-time favourite read-aloud… What crazy kids I have. And these are just some of the examples. On Friday alone they immediately wanted to tie our story about a little chick who did something big to our Bible verse from several weeks ago (1 Timothy 4:12 – “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young…”) and one student applied a lesson about not giving up because God is supporting you in a very real, scary situation in her life.  

I love that my students are growing up together – from many countries, from many churches, from many perspectives, but united in Jesus. They are surrounded with prayer – from their parents, from us as a staff, from you, from me, and from one another. They are growing up excited for Jesus and prayer to be such a part of their play, their lessons, their read-alouds, their thoughts, and their day, that the transition from one to another is not abnormal to them. I think that’s because they’re so enveloped in prayer. Join with me in praying that they maintain that joy, passion, and curiosity in Jesus.

This is not mentioning the joy, the blessings, the gifts, and the miracles I’ve been apart of because of prayer this year. The examples are countless. Thank you for your prayer support of me and this ministry. The fruits are evident.


Note the “Emen!”  I didn’t say their spelling and phonics was strong…! Haha


Quiet My Heart, O Prince of Peace

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.

– Mother Teresa –


Life here is full of noise. Constant. It doesn’t help that I live on a highway across from a Nica bar. Yes, the fact that it is a Nica bar is relevant. No word of a lie, a Nicaraguan church service is a few decibel ratings (or whatever they’re called) above a Canadian bar, so now imagine what the bars are like here. We’ve had the pleasure of enjoying mariachi music, brass band music, karaoke nights, and all manner of other musical delights. The guard dogs bark, the buses squeal, the horns blare. Most of us have music playing and fans buzzing. There is a baby and a toddler that live right behind us and they both love to add a joyful noise to the mix. There are some crazy awful loud birds that take up residence here. Also, keep in mind that I teach Grade 1… And two out of four of my classroom walls are solid windows that need to be open all day, every day and for the first months of school whenever there was another class out for recess, I was so distracted by the noise that might as well have been right in my classroom that I found it hard to teach.P1050294edit

This month, over Semana Santa (Holy Week) we went to the Corn Islands here in Nicaragua, and I spent every day in peaceful, ambling quiet. I woke early to watch the sunrise, peacefully read for hours on end, prayed silently under the palm trees, snorkeled for a few hours with only the subtle sounds of the underwater world, stumbled upon deserted, wild beaches, and fell asleep to only the crashing waves (okay, that sound I can handle). It was so restorative. Another teacher and I also decided to move out next fall to a new house that is simple, tiny, and down a little bumpy dirt road. The first thing I noticed and fell in love with: it was peaceful and easy.

I need to intentionally seek moments to be slow and quiet my soul even when the world around me is busy and noisy– take slow breaths, form slow thoughts, react more slowly, talk more slowly and listen more easily. From this leads a life that is lived more deeply. Depth never comes from speed. And depth is what I want. Richness. Fullness. Overflow of grace.

IMG_0226I’ve talked a lot with friends this month about living and loving more genuinely, and how that actually occurs and what is most important. I’ve come to the conclusion that a big part (but not the only, or even greatest part, by any means) of this is to seek peace and a relaxed pace, allowing God to take the lead and to restore me each and every day in Him.

I’m thankful for quiet holidays to challenge me to seek increased peace, places of hidden quiet, and intentional silence and reflection. There is such beauty in these places and I am excited to explore them more.

“We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”   – C.S. Lewis –