By: College and Career Readiness Team
Welcome to the Next Step Spotlight! Every month throughout the school year we highlight a Next Step Staff as well as Alumni to share their experiences with education and how both good and bad moments have guided them to success.
For this month’s Next Step Staff Spotlight, we interviewed Maria Paz Gatica Riquelme, Bilingual Instructional Coach
Q: What is your name?
A: Maria Paz Gatica Riquelme
Q: Where are you from?
A: Santiago, Chile
Q. Did you encounter any challenges while attending high school/GED program? If so, can you describe what they were and how you overcame them?
A: I don’t want to say it was easy, I was very lucky. I went to the same school since first grade until high school and had the same group of friends. I had a lot of support from my family. My parents encouraged me to try my best. I was a regular student, I had a great time with friends and family.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a post-secondary education?
A: It was never an option for me just to work, my parents wouldn't accept that, they encouraged us (my twin sister and I) to obtain a diploma and become a professional. In Chile it was important that you became a professional. The opportunities were limited. I worked very hard to get into college and receive financial support.
Q: Were you the first one in your family continue their education?
A: I was not, my mom studied to be a teacher but never worked as one. My mom got married very young and had my twin and I. I have many teachers in my family, my aunts and uncles who are teachers. Having come from such a background I wouldn’t say that influenced me to be a teacher, I just liked it.
Q: Where did you continue your post-secondary education?
A: I studied at a Catholic University in Chile and later continued my graduate studies at UPenn
Q: What did you study?
A: I studied to be a preschool teacher
Q: How did you pay for your post-secondary education?
A: 50% was my parents and the other 50% was in loans. When I pursued my master’s degree in education I was granted a scholarship from the Chilean government to study at UPenn. I was very grateful and extremely lucky.
Q. What was one of your biggest challenges while attending your post-secondary institution?
A: One of my biggest challenges while attending school was trying to decide what I wanted to do in the future. I liked what I studied but I always knew I liked developing and designing curriculums since college. The challenge was how to pursue that goal being so young and without having the experience that field requires.
Q. How did you go about pursuing your goal?
I have been here for 6 years. So after college I worked in public education in Chile for about 6-7 years and after that I worked in administrative education doing curriculum. So at that time I thought I finally found my path to my goal. I worked for 6 years and I got a scholarship to get my master’s degree to study here in the United States from the Chilean government that is how I came here.
Q. After that did you come to Next Step?
A. After I worked as an ESL teacher in Philadelphia at a University for 4 years. Later we moved for family reasons. I believe right after I received a message on LinkedIn from Next Step wanting to interview me and the rest is history. Next Step found me, I have always felt with my past jobs that in those positions is where I needed to be and I feel the same now.
Q. Who or what motivated you to continue and get through your postsecondary education?
A: My parents motivated me they encouraged us to pursue our dreams and work hard for what we wanted.
Q: Why did you decide to work in the education field?
A: I decided to work in the education field for the reason that everything has a purpose. I didn’t believe I had a deep profound reason behind why I choose the education field. I feel very passionate about education and I feel like the people I work with feel the same. I feel like the people I work with and I all connect in that way. I believe in what we do here and what we have here.
Q: What is your current role at TNSPCS?
A: I am the Bilingual Instructional Coach. We work closely with teachers as well as provide them support.
Q: What advice would you give to students interested in continuing to post-secondary education?
A: I would say try to find something you feel passionate about, something that moves you, makes you feel happy, something maybe you will do the rest of your life. If you don’t get it right the first time, that’s alright. When you are young we tend to worry about our small mistakes but life continues and everything will be find at the end.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?
A: It maybe sounds easy for many people, the fact that I came here to the United States with a student visa to pursue my masters makes me feel proud, lucky, and very blessed. If I was never granted a scholarship I would have never been able to study in the United States without the support I received.
Q: What motivates you?
A: Oscar always asks me this question. What motivates me today is the students, I even get emotional about talking about them. We have young parents working hard and every morning leaving their children at the daycare. It’s an amazing feeling that they trust us with their children. You can just see how proud the children are of their parents. It’s a great service we provide and I believe without that help many students wouldn't be at our school.