Alejandra Baromeo graduated from TBC’s Special Education program in December 2011.
She began her teaching career immediately after graduation but in December of 2013 she moved back to her home, the Caribbean Island of Curaçao.
Since then, she has been working in the public special education school system. For the past ten years Alejandra has focused on teaching and managing her own classroom. As one of only two teachers at her school who has a degree in special education, she has been largely responsible for implementing and developing the necessary structures within her school that are essential to students with disabilities.
Becoming a special education teacher in Curaçao was challenging on several fronts.
However, seeing the need for specialized teachers spurred her forward. As the youngest teacher in her school, she says it hasn’t been easy trying to implement change and progress. However, the school board has seen the positive impact of her expertise.
“It was a tough transition from there (Florida) to here (Curaçao). I didn’t want to overstep teachers who are older than me or have been doing this for many years. But I did bring in a lot of ideas that they [the school board] like so they have seen the positives of getting a degree specifically in special education.”
Currently, Curaçao has five special education schools: Two for mild disabilities, one for severe disabilities, one for the deaf, hard of hearing, and autistic, and one special education high school for those who are able and plan to learn a trade to support themselves. On average, there are about 15 students in each classroom, with ages ranging from 6 to 16 in elementary rooms and ages 16 to 23 in high school rooms.
In the last few years, the four other special education schools on the island have recognized Alejandra’s knowledge and expertise, leading them to seek out her input and direction on various topics.
Since earning her master’s degree in special education from Grand Canyon University, Alejandra has become more active in the administrative procedures of her school.
This coming year she will be transitioning out of the classroom into an administrative role at a sister school, overseeing all five special education schools on the island. She will advocate for the schools with the school board as well as with government agencies, working to implement changes in practices and influence the law process in order to better serve the special education demographic.
Additionally, she will work with the schools to better identify the needs of their students.
“I will be monitoring each student’s progress, what track they’re on, if they will continue, and what their finish goal is. The school board also wants me to learn from different management styles and possibly become a principal in the near future.”
Through this role, Alejandra specifically hopes to influence the school board to see the need for trained special education teachers.
She says that most of the current teachers are trained as traditional elementary teachers but do not have training specific to special education.
“We need to get the right people in the right positions. Education must be fun – for the teacher and for the students! But it takes work to make it that way – it doesn’t just happen.”
One of Alejandra’s long-term goals is to strengthen future teachers by implementing changes in their training at the university level in Curaçao.
Laughing, Alejandra says that the education system functions on “Island time”. She translates this to being approximately 10 years behind in the use and implementation of technology and other teaching strategies.
Additionally, she is concerned that many trained teachers coming out of university do not have the opportunity for sufficient hands-on experience before completing their degree.
“I really liked my education at TBC because we were in a classroom for several months, slowly taking on more subjects until I had the whole class on my own. Here, the teachers in training only get a single week of hands-on experience.”
In addition to her heavy involvement in the school system, Alejandra is active in her home church.
Recognizing the power of the gospel to change lives, she regularly helps with programs for youth and children as well as frequent charity work. Some of her students from school have begun to attend due to her influence in their lives.
Alejandra speaks English, Dutch, Spanish, and Papiamentu, which is the language in which she teaches.
TBC continues to enroll students from Curaçao. Most recently, two students from Curaçao completed their degrees in May 2022.