From a young age, Proximity Learning teacher Odalys Pacheco has been driven by her Dad’s voice at the back of her head saying, “Education is the only way out.” As the first one in her family to have a college degree, she has never stopped learning and pushing herself to be the best she can be.
“If I want to better myself,” Pacheco said. “If I want to be able to help my family, help my friends, help my community, the best way for me — and the only way I knew how — was to educate myself, and so I did.”
From high school technology electives, earning a master's degree in instructional technology, and becoming a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Pacheco’s passion for learning all she can about technology allows her to explore different techniques for reaching students in the classroom.
“[It's] something that my dad instilled in me,” Pacheco said. “He said, 'Technology is going to be the future. Make sure that you get really good at technology.'”
After teaching world language for 10 years in North Carolina, Pacheco worked in instructional technology where she provided schools in the state with professional development catered to their needs. She said she taught teachers how to utilize technology to make learning in the classroom more equitable and personalized to what individual students needed.
One of the teachers Pacheco taught had three students that needed help reading a novel — one was from Taiwan, one was Japanese, and the other one spoke Spanish. With technology, she taught them how to use an app that would translate the entire novel into the language they needed.
“I met with the students, and I said, 'Hey, all you have to do is click here. It will do the translation for you, and it will even read it out loud for you. It will show you the different grammar parts of a sentence. That way you can practice pronunciation, see the definition, and the translation of the text,’” Pacheco said. “They were so grateful for it.”
The tool was also beneficial for English speakers in the classroom. Since it can read the novel out loud, Pacheco said they would press the button for the audio whenever they got tired of reading.
“The entire classroom was reading the same novel in four different languages at the same time, and I think that was the best part ever,” Pacheco said. “It was like, wow, you can use technology not just for creative games, but also just to hit all those different learning styles and means.”
When Pacheco recently moved to Florida, she said she was looking for more opportunities to grow.
“I lived in North Carolina for 10 years, and I just needed something different,” Pacheco said. “I needed something new, more opportunities for me to grow as a professional. That was one of the reasons why I moved to Orlando.”
Pacheco had left teaching world language in the classroom to pursue instructional technology. Years later, she wanted to mix her two passions.
“World language has always been my passion, and technology is just like the cherry on top that makes everything just beautiful,” Pacheco said. “I wanted to blend both of them. I wanted to blend technology and world language together. What better way to do that than to teach online?”
Proximity Learning, an online education company, hires and trains teachers to instruct students through live video technology. Because the teachers work every day with students and technology, Pacheco thought it was a perfect next step for her to teach for the company.
“I get to use technology, different applications,” Pacheco said. “I get to use everything that I have learned in instructional technology, and then come back and apply everything that I had learned as a world language teacher. I think that's just the perfect combination to be successful as a remote teacher.”
With her hunger to pursue new opportunities and never stop learning, Pacheco said she wants to be a role model for her students.
“I was teaching them that it's possible,” Pacheco said. “It doesn't matter where you come from. It doesn't matter the situation. It doesn't matter where you live. It doesn't matter your race. It doesn't matter. If you want to, and if you want it bad, you got to do it.”
Not only was Pacheco working hard for herself, her family, and her community, but she was motivated to keep pushing by her students. She said many of her students moved on from her class and succeeded.
“Hearing those calls and getting those emails from them, saying, 'Hey, I went to Columbia, and I got a degree in Spanish because of you,’ I'm like, ‘Wow,’” Pacheco said. “Stories like that make you keep pushing and make you want to better yourself even more because you've just planted that little seed in them.”