Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom
Fifth grade ESBIR students present their knowledge at the March 16 school anniversary celebration.

Roatan’s Oldest and Biggest Private School Looks Back

In March 2023, Roatan Bilingual School (ESBIR) the oldest private educational institution on Roatan, celebrated its four decades of educating the island’s children and youth. The school traces its roots to the early 1980s when the island had no options for quality child education.

Back then most parents thinking about a University for their children would end up sending them to boarding schools in La Ceiba, or San Pedro Sula. Three ladies founded the school: Mrs. Cheryl de Galindo, Mrs. Mireya Warren and Jane Austin.

Mrs. Cheryl de Galindo and Mrs. Warren had the initial idea for the school in 1983 and things moved quickly after that. ESBIR received all its necessary approvals in Tegucigalpa and the school open edits doors on February 1, 1983 in a space rented from the Mary Webster family. The small wooden building had previously served as a local bar. In ESBIR’s first year of existence 35 students received classes ranging from kindergarten to third grade.

As more island parents became aware of the school, the enrollment grew. Mrs. Galindo saw a need to expand the school to a location that was not rented but owned. A small property was purchased from Aldin Bennett near a baseball field just north of Coxen Hole.

As more island parents became aware of the school, the enrollment grew.

Architect Bill Brady, who moved to the island as a Peace Core volunteer from North Carolina designed the school free of charge. Mrs. Cheryl’s father, Henry Warren, helped in purchasing the baseball field property.

There were other helpers. A charity funded by now King Charles III, The Prince’s Trust brought in volunteers to build the school building. The charity brought in underemployed or struggling youth that then helped with the construction of the wooden school building.

Operation Raleigh, was another key organization present at the beginning.

Mrs. María del Carmen joined the school as a teacher and became ESBIR’s director a year later. “She has become the backbone of the school,” says Prof. María del Carmen and Mrs. Cheryl de Galindo.

Any school’s success can be measured by the achievements and lives led by its students. Some of ESBIR’s graduates are now doctors, lawyers, and private entrepreneurs. The First of ESBIR’s graduates are now in their fifties and have made some significant contributions to the island. Jenny Serrano took over and expanded her family’s hardware store to be the biggest on the island. Nicole Brady and Trudy Hilton became vice-Mayors of Roatan Municipality. Mario Kevin Rivera Armijo, one of the first to graduate from ESBIR in 1995, went on to finish a master’s degree in computer science, before going to a seminary and becoming a missionary Claretian Brother.

On March 17, 2023 ESBIR celebrated their 40 year anniversary with a tribute to the schools founder. Several speakers spoke about the history of the school and its contribution to the foundation of the island. “This school and Mrs. Cheryl are more important than I am,” said Mrs. Cheryl’s husband Mr. Julio Galindo, twice Roatan Mayor and owner of Anthony’s Key Resort.

In March 2023 ESBIR had 31 employees: 18 teachers, seven administrators and six support staff. The school grew to 360 attending students, before the COVID government imposed lockdowns in March 2020. The attendance fell but has since recovered to around 270 students.

The school’s extensive grounds sit on a 2.2 acre property in the northern part of Coxen Hole. The school has an auditorium, a large meeting room, science laboratories and 37 classrooms.