Posted by: calloftheandes | August 16, 2013

Different Cultures Play Key Role in Mr. Howard’s Opus

Wafting from a Quito classroom, the mid-morning tones sound almost operatic as Chuck Howard theatrically announces his intentions of taking a “happy banana time” as soon as the bell rings. Why stick with a standard announcement? The audience of middle school students mulling around him are after all, pre-teens or early teens. They can still be entertained by his quirky antics.

During the waning days of the 2012-13 school year at Alliance Academy International (AAI) in Ecuador’s capital city, his blend of instruction and humor continued unabated. Howard began teaching in 1969. As he concluded this lengthy career with retirement in mid-June, he was teaching Bible, pre-algebra, algebra 1, earth science and astronomy.  He also sponsored a student group that met weekly to pray for the persecuted church around the world.

Interspersed with teaching, he has held various administrative roles with HCJB Global. He has managed Hospital Vozandes-Shell, the Quito business office and also served as the general director in Ecuador. Altogether at AAI he compiled 26 years as a teacher.

Howard’s repertoire of unique phrases is most likely ample, but several surfaced when he was recognized by fellow teachers and students alike at a recent awards assembly at the school gymnasium. Showing the school’s appreciation, fellow teachers Janelle Groenweg and Mónica Toscano, awarded Chuck and his wife, Anita, a small orange tree for their home just outside of Quito.

Groenweg said that whereas most people would refer to hypotenuse when describing a triangle, for him it is a hippopotamus (A big word, it serves equally well in place of hypothesis.) In Mr. Howard’s world, confused became confuzzled and if he really performed a blackboard blunder, it was gooficated.

He liked the word “discombobulated” and once inserted telepathetic instead of telepathic to describe a particularly prescient student, Francisco. Another time he startled Liza and made water go up her nose, to which he exclaimed, “I baptized you.”

Munching on a freshly-peeled banana, Howard mingles with the students who’ve stuck around just to talk. He watches a new group of kids file in, unload their notebooks and chat with friends. Then as another class begins, he preps them for a semester final examination.

An Ecuadorian flag hanging in one corner of the classroom represents a significant segment of life for Howard, who grew up in Quito as the son of HCJB Global missionaries. After attending Wheaton College in Illinois, Howard married Anita Christiansen, a missionary kid whom he had known practically all his life. Of their six children, all of whom graduated from AAI, one has returned to Ecuador with her husband, a teacher at the Nate Saint Memorial School in Shell.

The classroom’s two-tone walls display various education-related posters but his real passion is displayed from a glider, a bird, and a biplane suspended from the ceiling. A science-oriented man, he has had a lifelong interest in flight. Over the years, many of his students have crafted hot air balloons from crepe paper and wire. Then together he and the students filled the crafts with heated air and launched them into the evening sky from the school’s soccer field.

“He’s willing to help with math anytime,” one student observed, while another appreciated his teachings on Noah’s ark. To describe Howard in a word, students used terms that included: caring, wise, dedicated, funny, sweet, patient, a man that loves God, noble, goofy, and understanding. Wanting more than one word, one student answered with “the Best.”

AAI began by the Christian and Missionary Alliance as a school for the children of evangelical missionaries serving in Latin America. In 1929 when the school first opened, one of HCJB Global’s founding families, D.S. and Erma Clark enrolled their son, Bob. Several dormitories, including two on the school’s campus, housed students whose parents were serving elsewhere in South and Central America.

While North American missionary kids once represented a majority, those days are gone. Some 32 nations are now represented in the student population, even as the secondary principal, Toby Travis, acknowledges that “the school emphasizes a United States style of education and the campus does have a certain American feel.” That ambiance shifts slightly on the playground during recess when children can be heard speaking Spanish, Korean, and Chinese along with English. As AAI teachers will attest, a diversity of beliefs and cultures are brought into the classroom each day. HCJB Global’s Latin American Region provides nine (four full-time, five part-time) staff to the school to help lower the mission families’ tuition costs.009 telescope 2

For Howard, retirement will not mean puttering around his yard, but instead putting his administrative skills to use assisting Dan Shedd, Executive Director of the mission’s Latin America Region.

“When I arrived in Ecuador in 1988, Chuck was my first boss,” Shedd recounted. “He taught me so much about the cultures (Ecuador and HCJB). He is a teacher at heart inside and outside the classroom. A frequent setting for this learning was the corner bread store, which also taught me about the ‘good Ecuadorian diet’ of cola con pancitos (Coke and bread).’”

Upon learning of Howard’s retirement, alumni wrote him words of appreciation, thanking him for investing in them. “Chemistry intrigued me, but it was you that lit the fire to it for me,” wrote Melody (Wiebe) Wilms, a 1989 AAI graduate. “I wanted to do well because you were so patient and kind and because you understood the people that we were. You believed in me and helped me get through the tough materials and made it so interesting.”

In Medellín, Colombia, Santiago Londoño, read an AAI alumni newsletter mentioning Howard’s retirement and wrote, “As soon as I read your name I traveled back in time in my mind and remembered with happiness your physics classes of 1984. I remember you as an inspirational teacher that encouraged me to be inquisitive in life and to love physics on a daily basis.”

Guy Maurin, a former AAI teacher and administrator, wrote from a Middle Eastern country that his son, Mathias, “speaks of you often and remembers you with fondness. In fact, you are the standard of an excellent teacher to which he holds all other teachers. For Mathias, an excellent teacher is one that is like Mr. Howard.”

Driving school in Melbourne, Australia, Shelley Weeks of HCJB Global listened to her boys chat about classes and teachers. She wrote, “Next thing I knew, Malcolm says, “Yah, not like Mr. Howard, he was the best teacher.’ Then Nelson replies, ‘Mr. Howard was the best teacher ever!’”

Break time with Anita and Chuck Howard

Break time with Anita and Chuck Howard



  1. […] “He signed my Bible,” Howard continued, “We saw a man completely sold out to the Lord—a humble man, a man who depended upon prayer and Bible study. And he preached a simple message that was easy to understand, about the love of God for a lost world.” Howard and his wife, Anita, are now active Reach Beyond retirees after decades with the mission, serving at Hospital Vozandes Shell, Reach Beyond in Quito and at Alliance Academy International. […]

  2. […] I taught at the Alliance Academy International (AAI) here in Quito,” Howard wrote, “I could always tell who the students were who came from the NSMS. They were […]

  3. […] was very kind and friendly,” recalled retiree Chuck Howard. “Her creative and artistic talents were put to good use…. She was a wonderful hostess both in […]

  4. […] story that struck me most was what I received from a dear friend Chuck Howard: If you get this email, and if you get to Canoa, PLEASE, if possible, see if you can see Mariana […]

  5. […] Reach Beyond retiree Chuck Howard, who continues to do administrative work in Quito, agreed, describing Horn as a “loving, caring man who always had a winning smile and cheerful, encouraging words to share. His quiet, peaceful manner had a profound impact on many.” […]

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