Class of 2021: Nicolás Ruiz

Living in Bogotá, Nicolás Ruiz is now working to help vulnerable schools in Colombia innovate through instructional technologies and teacher professional development.

Why did you choose the UVA School of Education & Human Development for your program of study?

I decided to choose an M. Ed. program because I recognized that I had gaps in my endeavor as a teacher.  Also, I chose the Instructional Technologies focus because I am a tech geek, and I wished to create a startup that offered instructional design services in Bogotá, Colombia (this is where I live). Regarding UVA, I chose to study here for several factors. Some time ago, I read Dr. Jennings' book, Mindfulness for Teachers, and I found it eye-opening. Through this book, I found a connection between meditation and socioemotional learning. As I desired to learn more about this topic, I enrolled in the UVA School of Education and Human Development to learn from Dr. Jennings. I also chose UVA because of its renowned quality and the possibility of studying online at an affordable price.

What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time while you’ve been here?

My first course with Dr. Stephanie Moore marked a hiatus in my professional career as I began to understand how to design and deliver effective instruction. I also learned about curriculum design, instruction, and assessment through the lens of differentiation. These ideas began to stir in my mind and finally cooked into a project to transform rural schools in Colombia. Eventually, I decided to abandon the idea of a traditional startup and created a non-profit called "Fundación para la Equidad Educativa" (FEE), which translates to Foundation for Educational Equity. Now, we are helping vulnerable schools in Colombia to innovate through instructional technologies and teacher professional development. I firmly believe that what I have learned in this program will help to overcome Colombian educational inequity. 

I would also like to recognize the effort made by my teachers and classmates to create a belonging learning community. Even though we have not seen each other face-to-face, I feel that I belong here and that we have all cooperated to make learning possible. 

What is one thing you learned during your studies that surprised you most?

Before this experience, I did not have any prior experience with online learning. I used to think that online learning had lower quality than face-to-face learning. After my time at UVA, I am convinced of the benefits of online learning. 

How are you feeling about being a member of the Class of 2021, completing your program during a pandemic?

I feel that we have a responsibility for our communities. I know that my classmates are excellent people with great skills and big hearts, and I am sure that they will help transform their contexts by applying what they have gained during our learning journey. In this sense, UVA is special: we are always highlighting ethics.

What will you be doing next?

I will keep working with FEE to help innovate schools in Colombia. I will also pursue a doctoral degree to understand better how to help the people I intend to help.

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