|27 Sep 2023
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize
William Caldera Pantoja, an English teacher at Normal Superior Lácides Iriarte in Córdoba, Colombia, embarked on a unique teaching journey. Initially pursuing architecture, he redirected his path towards language and letters, which would become his lifelong passion. Economic limitations led him to abandon his architectural studies and with the support of the rector of the Liceo Sahagún, the school where he completed his high school studies, he began to teach as an English teacher in primary school, gradually expanding his responsibilities to high school. Despite facing economic hardships, he resumed his studies at Universidad del Sinú in Montería, demonstrating unwavering determination. During the day he worked as a teacher and at night he travelled to the capital of his department, Montería, to continue his language studies.
Throughout his career, Caldera Pantoja has been driven by the fundamental question: How to motivate students and create an engaging learning experience? This inquiry ignited his quest for innovative teaching methodologies, pushing him to transcend the confines of traditional education.
A pivotal moment in his work as a teacher was when, commissioned by the rector of his teacher training college, he attended a meeting of school rectors in Cali and discovered a teacher who every night screened films with educational messages to students who would be future teachers. Inspired by this, he initiated Friday night movie-making sessions with their students who were also training as future teachers in Colombia, thus quickly fostering their interest in a different subject matter. Recognizing the potential of cinema as a teaching tool, he incorporated it into English language instruction, witnessing a remarkable surge in student motivation.
Caldera Pantoja's innovative strategy, "Let's Go To The Cinema!" has not only reinvigorated English language learning but has also garnered national and international acclaim. His students not only recreate films but also share them with various communities, extending the impact of their work beyond the classroom. In supporting climate change education, with their fellow teachers, they emphasise environmental awareness and action among his students with projects like his giant bottle to gather discarded plastics for recycling "From Garbage to the Bottle" helping students understand and address environmental issues. Incorporating global citizenship in his teaching, Caldera Pantoja fosters collaboration, critical analysis of information and communication technologies, with an appreciation of cultural diversity. His students are not just learners but active participants in their own education, empowered to drive positive change in their communities where they will one day become teachers.
Teaching in a town rife with poverty and unemployment, Caldera Pantoja confronts substantial challenges. Many students hail from underprivileged backgrounds, facing issues like malnutrition and broken families. Despite these obstacles, he remains committed to offering them a chance at education and personal growth. "Let's Go To The Cinema!" provides a beacon of hope in this difficult environment. By integrating technology and teamwork, Caldera Pantoja's method empowers students to develop vital skills, from creativity and critical thinking to leadership and resilience. Through his project, William also generates an awareness of community service, as on that occasion, in the time of the pandemic, when he heard the story of a group of students whose house was collapsing and immediately began the process of building them a decent home.
Beyond the classroom, Caldera Pantoja's influence extends to the community, engaging parents, collaborating with other teachers, supporting students in extreme poverty, and bringing cinema to marginalized indigenous communities. His commitment to community well-being includes donations of essential items, health services, and cultural events. William is also a recognised cultural manager, which has allowed him to create cultural events supported by his country's Ministry of Culture.
Caldera Pantoja's innovative approach has been recognized through numerous accolades and awards, including the Compartir Teacher Award and the Eduteka National Award. His dedication to continuous improvement in teaching has made him a beacon of inspiration for educators, not only in Colombia but also on the international stage. His enduring efforts to improve teaching practices and empower his students have made William Caldera Pantoja a true educational pioneer, enriching the lives of those he touches and the broader community as well.