Meet an Art Teacher in Guatemala, Malinda Rains '16

Feb 26, 2018

by Annabel Leonova
Marketing Specialist '20

It’s not rare for a Florida Southern Moc to graduate and go on to do great things. In fact, it’s very common. We sat down with Tallahassee native Malinda Rains to find out how she does it and what experiences at Florida Southern helped to push and encourage her to do all that she does today. As an art teacher in Guatemala working with so many little children, she had a lot to say!

So, you graduated recently — in 2016. What was your major?

Art Education with a Dance Minor

During your time here, what were you involved in?

I was in ODK, KDPi (Education honors society), and I won the “Outstanding Community Servant Award” my junior year. I was also a Kappa Delta!

What inspired your career path?

I have always loved art, and my art teacher in high school made a big impact on me. I love working with youth and I got involved in youth ministry in college at First United Methodist Church (FUMC) in Lakeland. Art Education was a perfect fit to combine my love for art with my love of youth ministry.

“I believe the greatest asset that Florida Southern has to offer is its connections.”
Malinda Rains

What was it about FSC that really drew you here? 

I actually chose FSC before choosing what I wanted to do with my life. I loved the small community feel of Florida Southern when I came for my campus visit, and felt like I would have more opportunities there because of it.

We like to promise individualized attention here at FSC. Did you feel you received that?

Yes, I mean I had a unique experience with my major at FSC because it was very one on one. I had a combination of studio art classes and education classes. I loved being able to explore many different areas of art in my courses, and it allowed me to discover my strengths when it came to teaching art. Taking those studio classes also helped me develop my artistic style, which I use in commission work outside of my teaching position. Taking education classes with other educators such as elementary, music, etc. helped me learn how to include other subject areas into my curriculum.

What kind of relationship did you have with your instructors?

My professors in the art department were instrumental in my development as a creative thinker and problem solver. Sam Romero and Bill Otremsky were the two professors I had the most, and they are immensely qualified and inspiring to work with. In the education department, the connections I made with professors shaped my time in Lakeland and my future in education. Steve Petrie was a very encouraging mentor and professor, as well as Bernardo Blanco, who helped me find the position that I currently have. If it were not for Professor Blanco’s guidance, I am not sure where I would be teaching.

Malinda Rains opening a green door
Malinda Rains ’16

Now that you’ve graduated, you’ve seen immediate success. Do you feel FSC had anything to do with that?

I believe the greatest asset that Florida Southern has to offer is its connections. Because of the personal feel and the connections that the faculty has, students leave Florida Southern plugged in with little fear of finding a job or graduate program. My professors and advisors all knew me personally, and they helped me decide what path was right for me, and encouraged my crazy dream of moving to Guatemala.

What is your favorite college memory?

It is so hard to choose just one, but one of my favorite memories would be living in a quad in JR my freshman year. Those girls became my very best friends, and got me through the hardships of freshman year. We had so much fun in that room that it was hard to make ourselves do things with other people! I still talk to them and saw them over the Christmas break. It’s fun to talk and see what we are all doing five years later, and how far we have come.

What extracurriculars were you involved in? What were your accomplishments within them?

Mocettes Dance Team (Co-Captain for two years), ODK, KDPi, Kappa Delta (T-shirt chair for two years), Chapel Staff (four years), Resident Advisor in the Lake Hollingsworth Apartments (two years), Southern Ambassador(one year).

What led you to work in Guatemala?

I started going to Guatemala for mission trips when I was in high school. I fell in love with the culture and the people that I met there. My junior year of college I took a trip there, and started to consider moving there to teach English for a year after graduation. My senior internship at Ridge Community High School had me working with a lot of students with Hispanic backgrounds, and it made me think more seriously about moving to Guatemala. Dr. Blanco was my advisor for this internship, and he encouraged me to pursue it. He found the school that I am currently working at online, and contacted the director to make a connection. The school just so happened to need an art teacher for the next year, teaching art for pre-k through 12th grade. I interviewed over Skype and got the job! Now I am the Art and Resource teacher at the Inter American School in Xela, Guatemala.

What’s it like living in Guatemala?

Life here is both completely different and much the same. Guatemala is a developing country, so many of the luxuries I have in the states are not available here. I live in the second biggest city in Guatemala, so the area I am in is much more urban than the rest of the country. I live in an apartment across from an old cathedral and cemetery. The apartment itself has some quirks (electric shower heads that sometimes shock you, no dish washer, no washing machine, a ladder that goes onto the rooftop, etc), but those are the things that make living here so fun. I stick out here on the streets being tall and blonde among the short, tan, brunette Guatemalans, which can be a problem. I have to be careful about where I go and who’s with me.

What do you like most about your job now?

I love how different my job can be day to day. I teach art to all of the grade levels, which keeps me on my toes and constantly shifting gears. I love the sweetness of my kinders, the sincerity of my middle schoolers, and the humor of my high schoolers. I’m one of the very few people at this school that knows everyone at the school, and I get to watch them grow up year to year. I love the personal relationships I have with all of them!

Malinda Rains with a dog
Malinda Rains and her dog.

What does your day look like?

I wake up every morning to a cold house (there isn’t really air conditioning or heating where I live) in the highlands of Guatemala, where I can see volcanoes outside my window. I ride a bus to the school I teach at, where all of my students speak English (except for the pre-kinders) with an accent that I adore. Depending on the day, I have five or so classes that I teach. I also am starting an art club after school, and I am the advisor for student council. After school I enjoy going to get a snack from the local panaderia, taking Zumba classes, going to bible study with my fellow teachers, cuddling with my dog (we adopted her from the street) or taking Spanish classes.

What are your plans going forward?

I plan on staying in Guatemala for at least one more school year (what would be my third year). I have become very attached to my students, making it very hard for me to leave.

What are some real-world experiences that you’ve learned, now that you’re in the field?

Many of the classroom management techniques that you learn in school totally depend on the kind of environment you are working in, and for me specifically this environment is very unusual. My class sizes are small, and the students in them have been together their entire school career (there is only one or two classes per grade). The management of these classes is more like managing 15 siblings that know how to push each other’s buttons!

Have you done any volunteer work?

Yes, the school makes an effort to reach out to their community, because it is one of the most expensive in town and our students are well off. The school puts together a summer camp for kids in the area, which I was involved with last year. I have also helped build stoves in the area for families with health issues from their wood burning ones. This summer I am going to be staying here for a month to volunteer with a weaving co-op, where local women sell their work for a fair price and give weaving classes.

What advice would you give current students or young alumni?

I wish someone would have told me that less is more when I started school. FSC is great because of all of the opportunities it offers, but it can be a nightmare trying to do it all. Focus on the organizations or jobs you care the most about, and do your best with just those, instead of giving a little to a lot of different things. Invest in the ones that matter.