Eligio grew up in a rural area and was taught at the local school. He helped out teaching younger students and those with learning difficulties, and began to appreciate a teacher’s importance for students, especially if those students grow up in isolated environments: teachers open the door to broader knowledge, sowing the seeds of educational motivation and expectations. Eligio is now the Teacher-Principal of the Quelhue Primary School, a rural multi-grade school located in the Manuel Huaiquivir Mapuche Reservation. 82% of the students live in conditions of high social vulnerability, and most parents have just eight years of schooling and monthly incomes lower than US $350.
When Eligio arrived in 1988, the community lacked drinkable water and electricity. Every year over 60% of the enrolment consists of students with special educational needs of some type. Eligio’s methods, which have focused on learning science through applying knowledge to the environment, meant that his students rose to take third place in the region in exams. In 1997, he received the Ministry of Education’s Recognition for Teaching Excellence, and in 2005/6, he received plaques from both the National Corporation for Narcotics Control and the Chilean Government for his constant support for drug prevention in school. This year, in 2016, he was chosen as the winner of the local Global Teacher Prize in Chile.
If awarded the prize, Eligio would expand the environmental component of his Educational Project to benefit the whole commune of Pucón. He would like to make the city of Pucón an urban centre covered in lush native vegetation, and also fund the creation of an Educational Centre for the study, reproduction, and preservation of native flora that are endangered or at risk of extinction.