Photo: Bilingual digital coach Maria Vazquez teaches a Zoom-style class to Spanish-speaking learners.
CTN’s bilingual digital coach Maria Vazquez believes that digital literacy is not just important, but critical. “One of the things I try to explain to my learners is that this is the future. I think COVID was a big lesson for them. We all realized the importance of learning the basics of technology.”
A native of Mexico City, Maria has spent her life educating others. She has worked as a preschool teacher, an ESL assistant, a parenting class instructor, and a middle school Spanish teacher for the past 25 years. These varied experiences have equipped Maria to teach just about anyone — whether they be 7 years old or 70 years old. “I tell my learners that the only way they’re going to learn is through mistakes,” Maria says. “That gives them the peace of mind knowing that it’s okay to keep trying. As long as they feel safe, they don’t feel criticized, they will try.”
For the past two years, CTN has been fortunate to have Maria’s teaching expertise support our Spanish-speaking learners. In 2018 she began teaching some of our in-person group classes with middle-aged adults. Over the pandemic, she shifted to teach our older adult learners one-on-one via Zoom. This experience has been especially fulfilling for Maria. One of her learners, Elpidia, fell into a deep depression after contracting and battling COVID. She felt increased isolation and without purpose. As Maria worked with Elpidia and gained her trust, she began to see her mental health improve. Soon, Elpidia was eagerly learning new digital skills and even creating virtual artwork to share with Maria! “The learners feel very grateful to have that connection,” says Maria. “They trust me, and they know I care. It is very fulfilling to be there with them.”
Another asset Maria brings to her work with CTN is her fluency in English and Spanish. Not only can she better understand the needs of her learners, but she can also connect on a cultural level. “I love being able to help the Spanish-speaking seniors that have no experience with or knowledge of technology. A lot of the things we do have to do with our culture. The first thing is connecting with them. But then you have to earn their trust and have respect in the way you refer to and talk to them.”
CTN is grateful to have such a skilled educator on our team. As Maria’s learners finish their initial training sessions, they will need volunteer digital coaches to continue learning new skills. We actively recruiting volunteers to become digital coaches with a priority focus on Spanish. If you have bilingual skills and a passion for educating, we would love to hear from you!