Learning in the Making: Live! invites guest hosts of color on as equal and valued partners and collaborators, so that they can tell their stories and showcase the amazing things they are making and doing! This is because youth of color deserve to see engineers, scientists, mathematicians, artists, creators, and makers of color! In this series, we interview our guest hosts to learn a little bit more about them.
Maker Ed chats with Ariel Marchante Ortiz, guest host on Learning in the Making: Storytelling and a museum educator, who believes strongly in community-driven innovation through access to technology.
Maker Ed: Tell us a bit more about yourself.
Ariel: I’m a light afro-nuyorican educator on the west coast, among other things. I went to a few different high schools but spent most of my time at an upper middle class high school in a very affluent community. In spite of what many would consider a massive head start it was still hard, if not impossible (for me), to make things work.
A good deal of my approach to education comes from the realization that privilege in a white community isn’t actually empowerment. A lot of what I do and how I choose to focus on my students is based around empowerment and agency rather than closing the “achievement gap.” My hope is not to align students’ sense of self worth with the goals of a system that seeks to harm them but with the communities with whom they share their values and dreams.
Maker Ed: What excites you most about your work?
Ariel: All the people and communities I get to interact with. Helping students take their agency back.
My hope for when I work with my students is to build their sense of agency in how they view themselves. “Making” provides for these small successes that students can own and then use to rework narratives they have about themselves. It can turn the sometimes devastating event of a teacher saying, “I think you’re right for this and wrong for that” into something that is easier for a student to shrug off or take in stride. It’s exciting to see students rebuild their internal view of themselves.
Maker Ed: Why do you make?
Ariel: I think “Making” is a really important part of being and feeling human. In spite of what pessimists say, it’s always seemed to me like any group of people alone in a room with some tools or legos just seem to start making. When you don’t get to make it almost feels like you’re in a one-sided dialogue with everything around you. So I engage in making because I feel like it’s one of the best ways to interact with the world around me.
Maker Ed: What is your favorite thing to make?
Ariel: Robots and stories. Not necessarily together.
Maker Ed: What dreams do you have for young people?
Ariel: I just want them to feel empowered. I don’t want them to feel like they have to “wait their turn” to weigh in on how they want their future to look. They seem to be taking on the future and I’m frankly very excited for and proud of them.
Maker Ed: If you could share one word of advice to give to other educators, what would it be?
Ariel: I mean, I wouldn’t presume to tell educators about their own experiences, just that there is no such thing as a “problem student.” Not if it’s your job. If a student can’t concentrate or keeps breaking down and you’re not making any headway one needs to take a step back, take a breather and approach it from a different angle. Allow them interiority and complexity. As an adult some of my most prominent memories are the moments that teachers decided to either “give up” on me or “stay with me.”
I want to say this as an educator but really it’s the student in me that says this. Sometimes you may not realize it, but you might be the only person in their corner.
Maker Ed: Are there other makers and/or educators in your community whose work you’d like to promote?
Ariel: A lot of people come to mind but I feel that local Bay Area Community Colleges deserve more attention. They do so much work to help people fill in the gaps with their education and careers and empower them. I haven’t met a teacher there that doesn’t work part-time elsewhere in spite of their willingness to answer your questions. A lot of them are on standby with resources at the ready for anyone who asks. They’ve just been such a steady resource that I encourage anyone who is at a loss for “next steps” to reach out to them.