Summer break is an excellent opportunity for Forum Foundation to offer workshops and training for our tutors. In early January 2023, Profesora Belkys Ruiz organized a special workshop for twenty-five of our tutors. During the five-day workshop, hosted at the Victor Perez Flores primary school, participants learned a variety of techniques and strategies to work with primary school children.
“It has been a pleasure to have been able to contribute a grain of sand to what I love and enjoy doing so much, which is to bring quality education to my students. And now I have been given this opportunity to share what my knowledge and experience with young professionals. Sharing the act of teaching and the rewards it can bring in an active and motivating way.”
– Profesora Belkys Ruiz
Profesora Belkys Ruiz is a native of the district of Ocu, province of Herrera. With 22 years of teaching experience at MEDUCA schools, she has taught in a variety of contexts and locations, mostly in the North of Cocle, save her years of teaching at the Republic of India School in Las Cumbres, located in Panama City. “I have had a passion for teaching ever since I was a child. In part, I studied to be a teacher because it was all my family could afford. I embraced the opportunity knowing I would be able to work and continue helping my family move forward in the future.”
As Forum Foundation programs gained notoriety in Northern Cocle, Profesora Ruiz often heard comments from students and parents, who spoke of the Fundacion Academia Forum, which helped motivated students with limited resources access quality education. But pandemic school closures changed things radically. “We now have a closer relationship because the staff and tutors are supporting the Victor Perez Flores elementary school in Caimito where I teach. The Foundation’s support during these challenging years has been instrumental in our success. I am greatly for these relationships and hope to continue maintaining them.”
This wonderful and passionate teacher has recently joined in, lending a helping hand. “I had an interview with Profesora Elvia who asked me about the possibility of leading teacher workshops for the tutors who help provide learning assistance as part of the Foundation’s learning support programs. Given that many tutors are now offering help to primary school students, the Foundation asked me to share my expertise focused on these grade levels, in order to make lessons fun, motivating, and dynamic. Thus helping students review and reinforce their learning, knowledge, and skills over the summer break.
She gathered information on learning strategies, teaching methodologies, and experience from working in the classroom. Focusing her presentation on the message that active participation and motivation are central components for successful lessons. “This also gave several tutors the experience of planning a lesson and implementing teaching strategies.”
“The participants were fabulous, and I feel I was able to connect with them. They are all motivated to learn and are excited to use the strategies they learned. I saw tutors able to overcome the anxiety and nervousness of sharing their knowledge with others. Forum Foundation’s tutors are attentive and respectful. Moreover, they are willing to put into practice what they have learned and are eager to take on the challenge of being a different kind of teacher, active, dynamic and highly motivated. I was especially grateful for the space to discuss some of our doubts, and learn from each other’s experiences, interesting ideas, dreams and goals.”
This inspired teacher encourages her students to value their learning, to be responsible and keep moving forward setting new goals as they strive to become professionals and begin their careers. Her advice for teachers is, to stay connected and keep growing. “We teachers, have to always innovate and learn new things so that we can continue pursuing our passion for education. Every challenge is a new opportunity, and it is never too late to make a change. As long as we love what we do and we dedicate time and effort we can achieve great things.”
As a parent of a seventeen-year-old son, Profesora Ruiz understands the importance of parent participation in their children’s education. A child’s success in school depends on the effort and collaboration of parents, teachers, and students. Each parent plays a fundamental role in ensuring their children are both guaranteed quality education and puts forth the effort to be successful.
For Ruiz, strengthening learning in elementary school is essential if we hope to continue recovering from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. What she values the most in these early years is the ability to create and shape lessons around students’ particular needs. This makes learning fun and helps us overcome challenges together. Learning is enriched when students themselves are able to find creative ways that motivate them to shape and guide their own learning. “When I see students gain this independence at such early primary levels, I see the effect of what we are sharing and it makes it all worthwhile.
For this new school year, her hope is to continue moving forward and participating in activities like these where she can share her expertise with others. Moreover, her desire is to continue inspiring others so that learning can be fun and enjoyable. “If I could change one thing about the current situation, I would strive to make more opportunities and more project-based learning programs available to students. They need more opportunities to coexist and collaborate with each other so that they can create creative solutions that may help overcome the challenges of the present and future.”
Speaking with Profesora Ruiz about the challenges students and their families face in Northern Cocle, she mentioned “The biggest challenge facing our students in the North Coclè area is having disintegrated families, which in turn means fewer resources and time to provide help with learning. This in turn adds further economic pressures, that often result in students not being able to continue their learning.” Moreover, says Ruiz, “the lack of resources in many classrooms makes it difficult for students to understand and retain what they are learning.”
Nonetheless, people like Profesora Ruiz are undeterred by these obstacles and challenges. Grateful for the opportunity to share her story and experiences with others, we hope that docents like Profesora Ruiz continue supporting Forum Foundation learning support projects, helping make change sustainable. Thank you Profesora Ruiz!
Since school closures in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Forum Foundation has rearticulated its programs to maximize the number of students graduating from high school and university. As a result, Forum Foundation learning support programs now reach students at all academic levels, from kinder to high school graduation and then on to university and career counseling.