1. What was it about the Woodring College of Education that attracted you?
Colleges of Education generally address some of these barriers. However, I believe that a systemic approach to education is needed to understand how all of these barriers are connected. In Woodring we are privileged to have academic programs preparing students in teacher education and also in health and community studies which provide different perspectives on how systems work.
Growing up I experienced the effects of socioeconomic segregation. Families were grouped in neighborhoods according to their common background, and children were grouped in schools where everyone looked similar.
In 10th grade, I was able to participate in a service-learning program organized by my high school. I travelled to the south of Chile to help shantytown dwellers build their own homes with government financial support. For the first time I met several people who grew up in a different part of the country, who had barely made it through elementary school and who could not access secondary education. I was not ready to understand why. I remember vividly hearing them say to me over and over, “I want you to work hard, go to college - don’t go through what we have experienced.” Those words have stayed with me forever. As I went through college, I understood that they were victims of social and economic oppression that had condemned their families to poverty.
In 1973, during my first year in University, President Salvador Allende, who was democratically elected in 1970, was overthrown by a military coup that ruled the country through the early 90s. I lived my entire university years under a curfew - hearing shootings at night and listening to horror stories about people disappearing and being tortured. Yet I was prepared to teach in that environment. However, I was not able to get a job in a public school, as all were under control of the military regime. Instead, I began my career in non-formal education, supporting community-based organizations struggling to help themselves address basic needs. Those experiences, framed by Paulo Freire’s work, shaped my basic philosophy of education all during my career, in different contexts and institutional settings.