Cornerstone English Institute in Managua

"Now I´ll tell you a little about yesterday. When Martha visited, we (Martha, Rene, two of his children and I ) went to have a cup of coffee. Rene told me about his English school, called Cornerstone, which he founded. He told me about the success of his students. They can communicate quite well in 2 months. I told him I wanted to visit it. So, yesterday he picked me up at my house at 9:30am and we went to Managua. We went to his house and had lunch with his brother. During lunch, we had one of the most intense, yet candid political conversations I´ve had in Nica. Rene and his brother are strong Aleman supporters. To be honest, before yesterday, I had not met one Nicaraguan who liked his or her president. So I was intrigued and very interested. I won´t go into the details, but I´ll say that I was left feeling perplexed, challenged, unnerved, maybe even a little scared. It was valuable for me to hear their perspective and I respect them a lot. They don´t seem to be people who talk without evidence to back them up. I went to Rene´s classes : 2pm-7pm. It was incredible to meet 180 students who could all converse in English. It seemed like a miracle. And Rene´s method shatters all my preconceived notions of the perfect foreign language class. I used to think the only way to learn well was in very small classes of 4 or 5. But, here was an example of a huge class that had success. Several students sang songs to me. Lots of students asked me questions like what I thought of Bill Clinton and Lewinsky. I asked them questions too and they were able to answer with a good handle of a diverse collection of vocabulary. They conjugated verbs faster than I can in English. I would like to visit his school again and observe his techniques. It was just amazing to me." De Motor de Busqueda Kristie Pfabe, Letter # 23 from Nicaragua - February 2, 1999 - the Virgin of Candelaria´s Day From: Donald T. Lee, US Citizen resident in El Salvador, who recently visited the Cornerstone English Institute in Mangua, Nicaragua, and since Ms. Pfabe is probably a better writer than I am all I can really say is that the experience was one of the most incredible in my life. I was contacted in Managua by one of the students in response to an ad I had placed in Spanish on a Nicaraguan site for our International Language Programs "The Polyglots" which offer many courses and services now in Latin America. After a resounding "welcome to our country" he promised to e mail me directions and time to meet Rene Acuña, The Director and the message arrived promptly the next morning. Since I speak Spanish, having resided some 23 years off and on in Central America, I arrived to the front of the school in a taxi and was expecting a short chat with Señor Director Rene in his "office", however was promptly ushered in to a hail of greetings from over at least 200 students a resounding "good evening" which I responded in kind. I shortly discovered that Rene had no "office" that he conducted classes himself in the rear of the school from 4-8PM daily, my "interview" with Rene was intense and lasted 2 minutes, then I was ushered to the front of the class and conducted it for some 2 hours, barraged with questions, songs and the famous Cornerstone rapid verb conjugations, from memory (no blackboards, no grammar books!) yet students may bring their own texts for reference if they wish. The discipline approaches a military boot camp and the tuition is very low, and students from empoverished backgrounds are often given "becas" which is spanish for scholarships. Some of the students who had been studying less than 3 months were already on level 5 and 6 and spole excellent English and asked probing questions. By the end of the session I was both elated and exhausted. I plan to return the end of next month from El Salvador when I visit Nicaragua again. The second day was even more intense, I was even asked my opinion on "gay marriage" and other issues of the day and often had to cut into Spanish to explain my point of view, as well I was encouraged to join in the singing and tell jokes in English...and the students got them!!! (Once I told a simple joke in English at a meeting of ENGLISH TEACHERS called "Docentes" in El Salvador and NO ONE LAUGHED, when no one laughs at a funny joke, it simply means it has not been understood, so draw your own conclusions) and at the end of the class at 8PM Rene invited me for dinner at his home where I had an even more intense political and social discussion with him in private and I look forward to more in the future, now I have some 30 letters of thanks from the students to answer by e mail. If staying in Managua awhile don't miss a chance to visit Cornerstone English Institute, contact the school by visiting after 5:30PM and ask for Don Rene, just tell any Taxi driver "Del puente Larreynaga, 2 cuadras al norte, 35 varas arriba" although it is best to telephone ahead 249-5408 or cellphones 088-47465/086-82255 E mail c/o "Donald Garmendia" E mail Donald as to when you plan on arriving Managua and he will set up a date and time for you with Rene. All for now. Submitted by "calanguagetours" General Manager, The Polyglots Central America, San Salvador, El Salvador

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Luis Harsey

I shared with the students at Conterstone for 2 or 3 months, was agreat experience, knowing Rene, and talking with the students. When I go back to Nicaragua, I plan on going again, I am a friend of Cornerstone. I believe is a great place to support some underprivilaged students in Nicaragua.