For Aleyda Leyva, the dream to teach started at a very young age – despite the concerns of her family. Suffering from chronic rheumatic arthritis and motor disability, they believed the demands of teaching would be too challenging. Yet Aleyda Amakara was driven to create positive change in her community. Today, she teaches in an urban, privately managed school where a large number of students come from fragmented families and disadvantaged backgrounds. Many do not receive adequate support at home, as their parents work up to fifteen hours a day. They may lack food and nutrition, care for younger siblings, or live practically alone. As a result many drop out of school, experience eating disorders or take up gambling. Unemployment caused by COVID-19 has led to an increase in crime and the growth of youth gangs, extortion and theft.
Aleyda has set out to tackle these issues by developing various projects aimed at inspiring students with a safe and empathetic education. She promotes global citizenship, cultural diversity and tolerance. She has exploited latest technologies and gaming techniques to motivate learning, change behaviours and reduce stress levels in her students. Through gamification, students become the heroes or heroines of virtual communities and learn through fun, fictional stories. They become superheroes, ancient warriors, fashion designers, archaeologists, scientists, explorers of the Andes and curators of the Inca. One such project – Together – has been particularly successful, achieving recognition and adoption across the world.
In addition, Aleyda has used technology to develop the Inclusive Sound Library, which has supported access to information for the visually impaired, created virtual museums, and launched a project to boost digital literacy amongst parents. As well as being widely recognised within her own country and beyond, her techniques and innovations have led to increased student motivation, greater family involvement in education, and lower dropout rates. In fact, Aleyda’s students occupy over 50 per cent of places at the region’s only university, Pedro Ruiz Gallo National University.
Aleyda also shares her experience and expertise with teachers across her school, region, country and indeed across the world – including with peers in Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Brazil and the USA. An active blogger, she participates in education conferences, Edubloggers workshops and webinars to enhance knowledge within her field. If she wins the Global Teacher Prize, Aleyda would invest the funds in three new free School Innovation Centres focused on developing STEM skills. Students would be able to learn in state-of-the-art classrooms equipped with the latest technologies, such as 3D printers, computer-based programme design kits and audiovisual production suites. This would foster their creativity, critical thinking and problem solving, and lead to their future success.