My name is Damaris Montes Berríos. I am 32 years old. I am from Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, USA. I have studied Humanities, Theology and Education (please see Academic Experiences). I am currently in my last semester of studies to become a certified English as Second Language (ESL) teacher in the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. I am currently a student teacher in the UPR Elementary School.
I am a twice-exceptional student: I am both a gifted student and a “disabled” student (I prefer the term “diverse” student). If you are of those who believe that intelligence is measured by an IQ, let’s say that my IQ is 140. If you are one of those who believe that intelligence is multiple, let’s say that I have a huge linguistic, visual spatial and intrapersonal intelligences. If you one of those who doesn’t believe in IQ or multiple intelligences, let’s say that I am creatively gifted. Besides being gifted, I have dysgraphia and ADD, both discovered late in life. I spent a lot of time of my whole school years and most of my university years creating “tricks” to “do things like the others do it”, so I am very good in concealing my twice-exceptionalities. I do learn and I love to learn, but I learn by my own methods. For example: I have a lot of struggle learning languages through the grammar-translation method (I failed latin more than 10 times, and I tried really hard to learn it through this method). Although in school I had traditional English classes, I learned it through the communicative method: I saw TV in English, I read newspapers in English, I wrote diaries in English, I took English classes in Berlitz and in Toronto… I use English a lot to communicate with the world, that’s why achieved to learn it, although I am still learning and I can improve more, specially in pronunciation. The communicative method is the second language learning method I know most.
You could ask yourself how it is possible that a person with dysgraphia could become a certified ESL teacher. The key for me in order to get academic progress I needed to certificate myself as ESL teacher is technology integration and assessment that is not memory-based. The classes I studied for becoming an ESL teacher were not based on memorization: besides tests, I had to do oral presentations, lesson plans, portfolios, laboratory experiences, written presentations, essays, literature reviews, research designs… I once had a to plan a press conference of teachers who where against standardized testing as classwork. Although I did some tests, in the TESS (Teaching English to Spanish Speakers) program of the Faculty of Education of UPR I was never exposed to a class whose grade depended more than 30% on memorization. Besides that, in the UPR I was allowed with reasonable accommodation to write everything on computer in all circumstances, including tests. Technology integration and non memory-based assessment allowed me to pass most classes with A and so becoming an ESL teacher. The other thing I needed to become a certified ESL teacher, besides the required university classes, was the PCMAS (the teaching certification test given by College Board). When I requested to take the PCMAS I asked, as reasonable accommodation, to complete the handwritten parts of the test with a computer, and I was the first person in Puerto Rico that was allowed to do its teaching certification test that way. I do not consider myself disabled, but it is true that I learn differently and do things differently, and I let my students know that. That helps them to realize that it is OK to be different because the teacher will embrace them as who they are, and it also helps to learn to integrate diverse abilities in the same learning environment.
I have several interests. I am interested in teaching, classroom management and curriculum design. I am also interested in differentiated education and project-based learning. My main interest, in which I connect my studies in Humanities, Theology and Education, is personal formation. I am developing integraction as a model of personal formation. That model is evolving to a model of integractive education. The word “integractive” inspires the main title of this blog. You can know about what the word “integraction” means in the My Philosophy page.
I still do not know I am going to keep living in Puerto Rico. That depends on a lot of factors. While I am here, I am and will be doing my best.
I am faithfully Catholic and and try to honor the image and likeness of God in every human being. Integraction was inspired in the idea of honoring the image and likeness of God in every human being, but it is not limited to a faith-based view only: it has a humanistic-based view too. I am not the kind of teacher that speaks about her faith to her students. My evangelization style is showing my faith through my teaching professionalism and through my human values, without speaking about God to my students at all. I am strongly opposed to any kind of proselytism, so I prefer not to speak in school grounds about my faith, with very rare and counted exceptions.