Andy Marthel Watler, a lifetime educator, advocate for English-speaking Bay Islanders and native of Roatan’s Consolation Bight, died of cancer July 12. He was 51.
After graduating from the Escuela Normal Mixta de Occidente on the mainland in 1982 as a primary school educator, Watler dedicated his life to educating the youth of the Bay Islands. He helped establish eight schools on Roatan. The kindergarten at Arnaldo Auld school in Pensacola is named for him. He later earned a bachelors degree in primary education from the Universidad Nacional Pedagógica Francisco Morazán.
Watler organized the island’s first spelling bee and the first Bay Islands Culture/Heritage Week. He was also instrumental in establishing bilingual instruction for the islands’ English-speaking communities in the public schools.
After Honduras, pursuant to the 1989 Indigenous and Tribal People’s Convention (ILO 169), changed its education laws in 1992 to make it legal to teach languages other than Spanish in public schools, Watler was the first to propose that the Ministry of Education provide funding to extend English-language instruction within the existing public school curriculum. Consultations held in communities where English-speaking people were a majority found strong support for providing children instruction in English.
Watler was intrumental in getting the Roatan Municipal Government to cover the salaries of bilingual teachers in public schools on the island – starting with three in the late 1990s. There are now 46.
Watler became the first coordinator of intercultural education at the District Department of Education and, together with Artly Brooks, Henry Ebanks and Carlos Gordon, created a training program for English-speaking teachers. The program, launched in 2005, qualified the trainees as Primary Bilingual Teachers, with an emphasis on intercultural education to preserve the language, history and culture of the Bay Islands. They also edited a text book for use in Bay Islands schools. Watler was at the forefront of the first group of teachers to graduate from the three-year program in 2008.
Watler was a founding member of the Native Bay Islanders Professionals and Labourers Association (NABIPLA). He was an active member of the Honduran Liberal Party and served a term on the Roatan Municipal Council.
Schools Watler helped start on Roatan include the Elfreda Brooks school in Spring Garden, Lounsford Johnson and Joseph Bodden schools in Pensacola, Saddy Bodden and Carolina James schools in Saint Helene, Garvey Nelson in Hottest Sparrow, Joe Bodden in Flowers Bay and Grover Webster in Wild Cane.
Watler is survived by his wife, Sandra Merylu Peña, his father Albert, daughters Ashantie Parker and Mitzi Watler, five sisters and two brothers. His first wife, Elida Murillo, whom he married in 1989, preceded him in death in 2003.
(Click here to view photos from a memorial service on the first anniversary of Watler’s death)