Creating Young Entrepreneurs in the Dominican Republic – Maria Lorraine de Ruiz-Alma
For Maria Lorraine de Ruiz-Alma and the staff and students at Notre Dame School in Santo Domingo, trying new and different learning styles and technologies is all in a day’s work. As a Microsoft Showcase School, and a Microsoft Mentor School, the students are not only engaged with technology every day, they are leading the way in education innovation through the school’s strong vision for change.
In fact, Ruiz-Alma is recognized in the Dominican Republic as a pioneer in the use of ICT in the classroom, and was a principle contributor to the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE) project, “ICT in Primary Education,” which introduced environmental education to the Dominican Republic. She has participated in international programs with NASA, and in Model UN in Harvard, Yale and Georgetown Universities.
Most recently, Notre Dame students took part in the Global Enterprise Challenge, and it has been just that: a rewarding challenge that presented the students with an opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills in the classroom. “Since the first day, the students were excited, and were eager to participate despite the busy schedules,” says Ruiz-Alma. “They enjoyed the process of product design, idea brainstorming, working as a team, solving problems, and choosing the best solution. When their prototypes were observed and praised by their peers during recess they glowed, they were very proud.”
It was the Dragon’s Den that brought about some nerves, however, especially once it came time to practice their presentation in front of classmates. But the nerves turned to empowerment, as students found their classmates’ comments and questions very useful, and got some tips for improvement. “But the most exciting part for the students was sharing their experience with other GEC students around the world,” says Ruiz-Alma. “After winter break, kids were jumping while they broke the news about chatting with friends from India, England, and Spain.”
Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Maria Lorraine de Ruiz-Alma.
What inspired you to become an educator?
I always admired my 6th grade teacher, Ms. Jenny. She helped me focus my energy and curiosity in projects that matter for the benefit of the earth and society. With time I grew to be an accomplished student and an enthusiastic teacher’s aide. It’s no wonder I finally studied what I do best.
What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?
Every time I receive a “wild colt”, a “lost case”, or a student with a complex character or a dilemma that interferes with his learning, I am challenged to return the favor Ms. Jenny did some years ago, and those few moments in time where magic happens are the awakening of my existence.
One day, after listening to and observing all the 10th grade teachers, it looked like Stephen´s future was far from promising and brilliant. I wanted to meet the young man who caused high blood pressure, nervous ticks, and mouth twisting.
I become acquainted with the boy and discovered a talented, creative and aggressive entrepreneur with a sharp mind that only arose when it was safe to be himself. Many failures, family issues, and rejections were the wall he could not climb. I helped him value all his wonderful talent, experience the joy of compliments and peer recognition, guided him to accept the past and go forward, and to use the mistakes as important data for success. I trusted in him to take the shot whenever it comes. In time his grades, behavior and social life improved exponentially. It was my greatest pleasure to inform him, when he was at 12th grade, that he was chosen Head Delegate of our school at Yale Model United Nations. The look on his face was priceless!
Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?
I love fairy tales and if I can get some magic dust and throw it in my classroom so all my students can fly and their neurons fire with thoughts… I will do it! Innovation and technology bring back to the classroom the wonder, the curiosity, the imagination, the visualization of thinking, and when the teacher’s ideas are scarce, here come the students’ inventions!
I had to substitute for a Language Arts teacher who couldn’t pass the second page of the reading about the discovery of the Titanic remains. I decided to bring some history, a slide show of real pictures of the famous ship, its passengers, crew and epic disaster, with the beautiful music of James Cameron movie. After three minutes and plenty of little faces almost crying I told them that the secret of the wreckage was discovered by the divers of the cold North Atlantic Sea in their Language Arts books. Many hands asking permission to read were raised; we finished the story and still had two minutes to start a drawing of the ship.
Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?
[We need more] innovative and creative teachers! There is no restriction on budget for them; they can create great environments with whatever is available. But to educate them, to raise a generation of educators whose curiosity, inspiration and energy are not tamed by society is the challenge of today.
In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?
That they will be the generation that will study without books and notebooks, finally leaving the trees in the forest and helping the earth to recover. That, with the communication and collaboration among people through the Internet, we will reduce the boundaries between countries and finally create a big network of global citizens.
How do you strive to prepare your students for the future with 21st century job skills?
Never kill their curiosity, nurture global communication and understanding, advocate to protect earth, direct them to be intuitive, observe the environment and gather enough data before making choices. Promote sports for fair play, fine arts for creativity, math for reasoning and moral values to design an entrepreneur with ethics and a scientific mind.
About Maria Lorraine de Ruiz-Alma
Notre Dame School
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
- Blog URL: https://www.educatornetwork.com/Discussion/456c0f16-1be4-40c3-951f-9fc8436f1409
- Birthplace: Santo Domingo
- Educational background: Economics at Pedro Henriquez Ureña University, Marketing at Colorado University, Education at Santo Domingo Catholic University and Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Certified Master Trainer at NASA´s environmental programs for schools at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, at Miami University.
- Website I check every day: Notre Dame School Twitter page
- Favorite childhood memory: Flying kites on Sundays with my family!
- Favorite book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, and technology: Windows Phone 8, OneNote Notebook (it’s the bomb!); Office 365 — best technology ever!
- What is the best advice you have ever received? “Be a master of your craft!” Robin Sharma, Santo Domingo Conference, 2009