Cecilia Paz

Pintadito de Artigas High School, Uruguay

Cecilia  Paz

Cecilia knows that education can transform lives and that it must not be restricted to classroom boundaries. She works at the Liceo Pintadito in Artigas, Uruguay, in an area of deprivation, poverty, illiteracy and diverse shortages such as drinking water. In this area, the expectation is for adults in the community to work on rural tasks such as tobacco sapphires and precious stone quarries, and it is assumed that they can carry out these jobs without secondary education. Consequently, many of the students drop out of school at an early age.

One of the main challenges that Cecilia initially faced was to help students who could not read and write, creating bonds with them in order to break down barriers, understand causes, investigate their educational trajectory and expand their well-being.
Her starting point was empathy. By putting herself in her student’s shoes and listening, she adapted to the needs of the student rather than the curriculum. Her strategy was project-based work: starting from a real problem, challenging students and finding a strategy to face it. In this way, she managed to interest of numerous young people. Today, the students, together with the community are committed to finding solutions to the problems that affect them daily.

Cecilia teaches Spanish language but also likes to educate students through projects where they have to investigate, read, look for information and be autonomous, which sometimes gives better results than traditional classes.

She won acclaim for her students’ “Pintagüita” project, aimed at developing solutions to the lack of drinking water in their region. The project had a consultative/social dimension of informing the public and educating on practical and responsible uses of drinking water, as well as obtaining water storage tanks, building devices to take advantage of rainwater for watering plants and for cleaning.
In this way Cecilia is helping generate global citizens and critical students who want to improve their world. In recognition of her educational innovations and leadership, her students have won special mentions at science fairs organized by the Ministry of Education and Culture and she was awarded the Uruguay National Teacher Prize 2019.