Daniela is an Early Years teacher with a rich international school teaching background. She is originally from Chile and brings a wealth of IB knowledge both as an IB alumnus and as an educator to WISS.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became experience in your subject area?
I’ve been teaching in international schools for eight years and have had the luck to do so in South America, Europe and now in Asia. When I first started teaching within the IB PYP in Chile, it was like something simply “clicked” in me. I felt passionate about having a program that could systematically help me guide my learners in their development of both knowledge and understandings, but most importantly, life skills and attitudes. I was – and still am – inspired by the people who I worked with and how they helped shape who I am as a teacher and learner today.
Becoming an IB educator and traveling the world to reflect and collaborate with teachers in different IB schools is very professionally and personally enriching. I have had the luck to meet wonderful educators, schools and places, such as Peru, Copenhagen and Athens. These experiences have not only taught me a lot about teaching and learning within the PYP and in international contexts, but they have also made me realize the passion I have for travel!
I took the risk of moving from my own country and took on further challenges in some leadership positions while teaching in Spain, where I was fortunate to receive the trust from my colleagues as we collaborated in further developing the Primary Years Program at that school. It was challenging to adapt to a new culture both in terms of the country in which I was living and the school where I was working! At least I thought so, until I ran into the opportunity of moving to China, where the cultural gap is much wider, and at the same time, much more enriching!
These opportunities have developed my international mindedness, which I initially thought was well established, but that I now feel will always be in constant development.
What are your personal teaching philosophies?
I believe everyone is a learner, no matter what age or stage in life they are in. This is especially true with young children, who are natural inquirers. As such, they strive to make meaning of the world around them. A young baby who explores objects with its mouth, a young child who asks never-ending questions, and an older child who observes a rainbow and wonders how the colors are produced, children are always seeking new discoveries. As teachers, it is our role to guide them through these and to provide the opportunities for discoveries and inquires to be developed. Young learners – and even older ones too – need to explore objects and situations, they need to use their senses, make connections between what they already know and what they are experiencing, in order to make meaning of the world around them and reach conclusions as to how things work, why things are the way they are, and what happens if…
It is saddening to me that in many educational models this natural thirst for knowledge and curiosity is stepped over by work that is meaningless and disconnected from the learner’s life. Children are swamped with repetitive tasks to memorize information that they do not truly understand. It’s not that I don’t value information and knowledge, but especially in this era where technology has anything we want at our fingertips, I believe young learners mostly need to develop dispositions, attitudes and skills with which to face all sorts of challenges and solve whatever problems they encounter.
Why have you chosen to work within the IB curriculum?
I am an IB alumnus and have only worked at IB schools, so perhaps my answer might sound biased. However, I have chosen to stay within IB schools because I believe it is crucial to have a robust model that guides me as a teacher and learner. I am inspired by the values that the IB has in relation to teaching and learning, and its mission in developing internationally minded young people. I think there are many things that are wrong with the world today – from injustices to poverty, to global warming – and I believe that an IB education can truly shape the people who in the near future can take action. I am honored to know that I am part of this.
Tell us more about the importance of your subject area for students overall growth and development?
The Early Years is a fundamental stage in learning and development and the research that is out there in this regards is amazing. I love feeling that I am taking part of such an important moment in the lives of my students, and that the experiences we are living together are shaping who they are and who they will become. Developing lifelong skills such as an appreciation for books and literacy, an interest in the arts, and an overall love of learning are the most important dispositions children in the early years develop.
Tell us what you have enjoyed most working at WISS?
WISS is truly a community. Working here is like being part of a family, a family that is diverse and multicultural. I love interacting with people from all over the world, learning about our differences and finding points in common even with people who are from across the globe. Along with this, WISS is a great place to develop professionally. The team I work with is very knowledgeable and well prepared, our meetings are full of discussions about developmentally appropriate practice, best practice in teaching and learning, and the latest research and theory. Working in such a professional environment is both challenging and fun.
What aspect of your class do students seem to enjoy the most?
My students love learning through play. We set up different environments around the classroom where they can engage in open ended explorations and interact with one another through role play. This gives them the opportunity to develop social skills, communication skills, to inquire and also to grow around the Learner Profile, and they do all this while committed in self directed play, so many times they don’t even realize they are learning!
Any exciting projects for the WISS community to look forward to?
I am truly looking forward to International Day! I have heard so much about this and how much fun it is to meet all the families at WISS, share their typical food and see them wearing their traditional clothes! I am also really excited about bringing in things from my own culture, and sharing those with my colleagues and the parents and children I work with.