My name is Ximena, and I joined the Education Team in 2021 as a Special Education teacher.
My path to my chosen career started at school, in second grade. I felt different and noticed that I was not the same as my classmates. I never understood what the teachers were talking about and also could not remember verbal instructions. My attention-span was limited and I developed many gaps in my knowledge. I was referred to many specialists but they simply said I was a "slow learner”.
My parents and teachers accepted this but as I reached fourth grade, the difficulties were more evident. I failed the year and had to repeat. That was a tough blow for me and my family. My parents could not understand why learning was so challenging for me and they began to believe that I was just being lazy, since that was the information they received from my teachers.
The following year was very difficult, my teachers already had me labeled. They would give me harsh consequences when I didn’t finish my work or understand something. I began to feel very frustrated, I hated school and no longer had the motivation to learn. After repeating fourth grade, I changed schools multiple times. So although learning and focusing continued to be difficult for me, these differences were not as obvious to new teachers.
One day, after many years, seeing many different professionals, one of them finally managed to give me a diagnosis which resonated with me and explained what I was feeling. I perfectly fit all of the described characteristics. I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity. After my diagnosis I became very interested in education. Because of my own experience, I felt that someone had to change the educational system in Guatemala. I have always thought that no child should feel stupid or bad for not learning like other people. So when deciding what to specialise in during my further education, I chose to study to be a teacher.
During my final year, when I was doing my student teaching placement, I met a student who had a learning disability and was struggling at school. Although I understood what she was feeling and had the desire to help, I did not have the knowledge or the tools to do so. This motivated me to complete a further degree, specialising in Special Education, to support any child with special educational needs.
I thought that studying Special Education specifically would be the solution and make everything easier in my classroom, but I was wrong. I faced different challenges with many students every day. However, the happiness and the progress of the students motivated me to continue, to want to improve myself as a teacher. This led me to study a further specialised focus in Educational Psychology at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.
During and after my studies I was able to work in a number of different schools and jobs, allowing various experiences and contexts. One day I noticed EFTC was looking for a Special Education Teacher. I started reading and I really liked the history, the educational approach, and the mission and vision of the Foundation. So when I got through to an interview I was quite excited, then when I received the email that I had been offered the position I was absolutely delighted!
Today, I have been part of the EFTC team for almost two months. There have been many challenges due to the situation we are experiencing with Covid.19. However, the love of learning that our students have continues to motivate me to be the teacher they need.
In Guatemala the approach to special education is slowly changing. There are many people who want true inclusion and who are embracing diversity and responding to the different needs of our students, purposefully and with care.