First Year of First Grade: What a Great Year!

Field day has taken place, autographs have been signed, hugs have been shared, the walls are cleared, and the cupboards are organized again.

My first school year in Kigali has officially come to an end.

My teaching dreams have finally been fully realized. Have you ever been doing something and thought “this is what I was meant to do?”  Although, everything wasn’t perfect, and definitely not always easy, I had this thought many times this year.

This is what I thought teaching could be! This is why I spent so much time and money pursuing another degree. This is what God has called me to right now.

The school year has been full of so many wonderful moments. Here are a few of the highlights.

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Everyday started with morning work. The students loved using their whiteboards!

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Guided Math Groups

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Using playdough to practice spelling words was a favorite.


Writers working hard on their stories.


Sharing stories during one of our publishing parties!


“Mama Hannah” sharing with both first grade classes about Rwandan culture.

Exploring ‘air’ during science.

More air exploration with bubbles.


Visiting a nearby school to read with other first grade students.


My lovely first grade teammate!


First Grade 2017-2018 (sadly a couple students were absent when this was taken)


I loved this year and I am even more excited for next year! I am already thinking of ideas for improving and ways to make the learning even more fun and engaging. There is also one way I could really use your help in making next year even better: I am hoping to add a few iPads to my classroom next year.

This year, the school was able to install more reliable wifi! Internet has been extremely slow and hard to use in the past, but this year it was much more accessible.

Now that we have fast enough internet, using iPads in class is a real possibility. iPads will help me differentiate instruction and provide extra practice for students who really need it. It will also help with reading as many of my students are English Language Learners and need to hear English in addition to reading it themselves.

I would like to purchase 3 refurbished iPads (Generation 2 or 3), durable cases, and headphones. To make this purchase, I need to raise $350.00.

 If you would like to contribute to this need, please click on this link.

Or if you have an iPad you are no longer using and would like to donate, my students would really benefit from it! You can email me at:

Thank you for your continued support and prayers over this last school year. I cannot express how truly grateful I feel to be here and be doing this work. We’re looking forward to a restful summer break and a great school year again in August!

A look at life

If there’s a theme to this post, it’s ‘everyday life’ photos – some snapshots of our day-to-day here in Kigali. Enjoy.


When our pantry/shelf is stocked and colorful


Brochettes for days


School lunch… (at least there’s a few greens?)


More typical Rwandan food — matoke (type of plantain), beans, and dodo


Ikivuguto: described as buttermilk-like fermented milk, more like kefir


Kimironko market


Fried sambaza from Lake Kivu


Sunday school at St. Etienne. Natasha regulrarly teaches ‘Middle Class’


Prayer during St. Etienne’s ‘Walk to Remember’ commorating the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi and specifically those from the congregation who were killed


Oyster mushroom growing!



Cactus gardening. I’ve had fun finding various plant cuttings to transplant into our yard .


Having a lime tree is pretty great.


Thanks for polinating.


My first commisioned painting


Small shop or botique/iduka (sp?) down the street. Great avocados sold here.


Making our livingroom home.


Bean table and kitenge pillows


Buying electricity through phone (paying in cash down the street is the other option)


Looking out from our neighborhood


School cat the meows until I feed it


Familiar sign, font, and logo. Ha!


Running some errands in town


Hiking behind our place



Facetime and Skype nights!


Hey buddies!



Leaky window that causes way too much trouble.


Saturday KICS ‘Mission Time’ planning session


Ethan’s office


Natasha’s 1st Grade Classroom



Getting junior students to hold hands and sing a song as part of a cross-cultural communication simulation. Some were more enthused than others…


If the clothes line is full…


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Birds like to fly into our house. Hilda then chases, sniffs, gets scared, and runs away.


Pride in my quick break-in skills. Shame in the need to do this at all.



Places & Podcasts

Our church in Kigali has been a great blessing to us. It’s a community that has welcomed us, it’s a place where we consistently hear the word of God preached, a place to serve, and it’s a space to worship with our new neighbors. It’s obviously different from our sending church in the States where we know each person and are surrounded by so many who know us well, but that too will come in time. As we progressively root ourselves at St. Etienne, I’ve also enjoyed journeying with Redeemer from afar via its weekly podcast.

I put on my headphones today and cued up the latest sermon.  I listened to Fr. Jay begin his message with a story about dreams — the passage was on ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’ Jay’s story sounded pretty familiar to me, but I assumed that was because I’ve been around him a good amount. Then, halfway into the sermon there was a reference to the church’s hopeful new building (see here and you’ll realize that the new facility is way past the theoretical stage at this point). I looked down at my phone and realized that I had somehow played an old sermon from last July. Oh well, I’m sure it’ll be good to hear again. A few lines had already grabbed my attention, especially about the reality of God meeting people in specific places (see Genesis 28, where Jacob has his dream at Bethel). Jacob says, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” God met Jacob, the schemer, the guy who one commentator called “more scoundrel than saint” and decided to use him. God promised to watch over him wherever he went.

At this point in the sermon, Jay spoke directly to me. I don’t mean that in a theoretical sense…his next words were actually addressed to Natasha and me. Turns out, this was the sermon from the last week we were at Redeemer before leaving for Rwanda. Whoops… I guess that day was a bit of a blur (teary eyes and all) and I didn’t remember all that was said 🙂 Here’s a the ending:

“Ethan and Natasha… the Lord will be with you. He’s not just sending you; he’s going with you and is already there. I pray that you will hear the words that were spoken over Jacob… God will keep you, God will be with you, God will provide for you. There will be hard times, harder than you think. There will be times better than you think. We pray God gives dreams and insights in those times.”

My accidental podcast selection seems less of a coincidence and more of a God appointed insight, even a dreamlike incident. I don’t think I’m currently in a “harder than you think” moment (not that I’m great at identifying those times… Type 7 – for all you lovers and haters of the Enneagram), but a reminder that God goes with us, that he’s here, feels very timely. It’s been easy for days to merge together, for time to slide away, to feel more scoundrel than saint, and to lose sight that God is present and working. I was out on a walk in our neighborhood as I listened today. I was in a place that overlooks a valley and the outskirts of the city. It’s become a specific place where I’ve been able to pray, even when that task seems more difficult everywhere else. One year ago, when Natasha and I were in Rwanda for the first time together, I remember the sense of God speaking to us and confirming our call to be here. I’m thankful to know that affirmation again today, and to have places and spaces where God meets us.