Educating Beyond Classroom Walls in Puerto Rico
During Josué's 7 years working at Nuestra Escuela in Puerto Rico, he has worn a great many hats. IDEA's Scott Nine calls him "The Linchpin," a term coined by author Seth Godin. Godin writes, “The linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen.”
Josué began by teaching Social Studies, which he continued for four years. At the same time, he developed an after school program called Taller CEPA (in Spanish, the acronym stands for “Communication and Alternative and Popular Education” Workshop), which incorporates arts, sports, and media. Taller CEPA was so successful that Josué started coordinating it full time, and he brought the program from Nuestra Escuela's headquarters in Caguas to its other school centers in Puerto Rico. And as if that weren't enough to fill his schedule, Josué also developed a Nuestra Escuela site for adults, a night school in a rural community of Caguas. The success of these programs led Josué to become Programs Coordinator for Nuestra Escuela in September 2011.
In the spring of 2012, Josué began leading three new initiatives at Nuestra Escuela:
The Caguas Education City Initiative aims to transform the entire city into a web of learning opportunities. It began last year in four pilot schools, three elementary and one middle/high school. The initiative brought together various combinations of students, teachers, citizens, administrators, and city officials, who regularly sat together in discussion circles listening to each other’s ideas and concerns. Students were encouraged to share their dreams and talents.
This year, the Initiative is working on making school walls permeable, bringing students out into the city as well as bringing community members in. The goal is to match up willing learners with willing teachers, and to provide students with learning opportunities that help them pursue their dreams. For example, the student health and robotics clubs recently visited the biggest hospital in Caguas, where doctors toured them around the different areas of the hospital. "They even let the students ‘play’ with a two million dollar robot named Da Vinci that performs surgery," said Josué.
The Education City Initiative is also bringing community members into the schools. For example, different types of artists visit classrooms to talk about making a living through the arts. One sculptor visited a group of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders and talked about the exhibition she was creating. Later, the students visited the exhibition space to help the sculptor put it together, and they will also attend the event opening.
One component of the Education City Initiative that Josué is helping to develop is Aulas Ciudadanas, or Citizen Classrooms. These are impromptu learning spaces throughout the city, whether public spaces, private spaces, businesses, or museums. The goal is to map the city as a learning community via a web portal, pinpointing destinations such as museums and botanical gardens, as well as citizens who are committed to the initiative.
Josué is leading Nuestra Escuela's effort to develop a publishing imprint called Editorial Estrella. The school community is working on a two-volume history of the school, the first, tracing its origins back 40 years and covering the first five years after the school opened. The spring of 2013 is the scheduled release date. Editorial Estrella will also develop and publish educational materials for Nuestra Escuela, other schools, and the Education City Initiative.
Inspired by Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Pedagogy of Hope is an alternative faculty that Josué and a team from Nuestra Escuela are developing. The goal is for teachers, students, community leaders, and other citizens to acquire skills in different practices of alternative education and community organizing. In 2013, the faculty will launch via webinars and in-person gatherings.
In addition to coordinating these three initiatives, Josué was on the team responsible for creating a new alternative education law in Puerto Rico this year. The Alternative Education Enabling Law of Puerto Rico, which legally protects alternative education as part of the public school system and ensures funding for it. Josué was also a member of the organizing committee of the IV World Congress on Children and Adolescents Rights, and the XX International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC 2012).
Josué has two Bachelors degrees from the University of Puerto Rico, one in Media & Public Communication, and one in Education. Josué lives in Caguas with his partner, Jessica, and two sons.