Cristina Simoes

Tondela and Tonda Basic School, Viseu, Portugal

Cristina  Simoes

For over 20 years Cristina has been a special education teacher in Tondela, Portugal, and for eight years she has been using a model called “Quality of Life” with her students. She dreamed of becoming a teacher from childhood and after an experience that left a great mark on her as a student, she decided to start training in special education. For 10 years she has been working in a rural public school.

Cristina uses various innovative educational practices and, as goals, aims to develop the independence, social participation and well-being of her students who have a range of special educational needs.

To this end she can often be seen teaching the children as she tours around with them at the supermarket, post office, garden and even pedestrian crossing. Her 100% success rate with student learning led to her becoming one of the National Teacher Prize Portugal finalists last year.

She has designed a scale that measures the quality of life of adults with intellectual disabilities and adapted this to Portuguese students, charting eight domains: personal development, self-determination, interpersonal relationships, social inclusion, rights, emotional well-being, physical well-being and material well-being. To improve these indicators, in the classroom, Cristina works on the independence, social participation and well-being of her students. The project has had a widespread appeal and popularity, leading to her training other practitioners on its principles country-wide.

In addition, she is a teacher trainer and has won several national and international awards for her contribution to teacher professionalisation and the impact of her work in the community. Cristina understands diversity as a primary value and promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities. The defence of learning rights and the right to achieve a better quality of life for her students are the engine that have inspired her to exercise her profession.
As a teacher and researcher, she recognizes that the current great challenge is to fight against social prejudices, change the view that society has on people with disabilities and recognize them as subjects of law, and involve them in their own learning process, promoting their autonomy and independence.