Inclusive and Accessible Learning Journey

 |   Maria Mendiburo, PhD, Secondary School Lead, Future Skills, Worldwide Learning, Microsoft Corporation

Maria Mendiburo, Secondary School Lead

My grandmother on my father’s side completed only a middle school education in Cuba. In her thirties, without knowing any English, she immigrated with my grandfather who was in his forties and my father who was 10, to the United States to escape political persecution. With less schooling than most, she accomplished many things and had a successful career as a seamstress. However, I often think about what she would have been able to accomplish should she have been given the opportunity to receive a higher education.

Throughout my childhood my grandmother was the biggest cheerleader for my education and instilled the importance of learning in me. While other children received toys from their grandparents for holidays and birthdays, my grandparents gifted me money for my college education fund.

Maria Mendiburo, PhD

Today, as a Latina born and raised in the United States, I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to have had the opportunity to receive a higher education at great schools with the help of my grandparents and financial aid. Because so much was done for me as a child, I feel a deep responsibility to pay it forward to the next generation.

The Mendiburos

I’ve always been teaching in some way, shape or form, whether it was my fulltime job or not. Most of my career I’ve worked with students that are struggling learners while specifically focusing on underrepresented groups in tech – which include women and Latinos. My mother was a vocational counselor for the blind and a special education teacher, so I was exposed to new innovative programs that proved to be successful for children that struggled in traditional environments. The exposure to her work inspired my goal of broadening the understanding of universal design for learning and creating more inclusive and accessible learning materials for students of different backgrounds and learning needs.

At Microsoft, I work as the Secondary School Lead as part of the Future Skills team within Worldwide Learning. Our team’s goal is to skill the future workforce on Microsoft technology. I am currently working on a strategic plan for how to evolve and streamline some of Microsoft’s existing learning products such as Microsoft Imagine Academy. I am also working with several other teams across the company to develop a vision for how to give more high school students exposure to modern computing concepts such as cloud computing, data science, and AI.

Maria Mendiburo TEALS

Beyond my daily role, I’m passionate about volunteering through Microsoft TEALS for a high school in Leavenworth, WA where I teach computer science to students remotely. Last year, my teaching team placed a lot of emphasis on introducing our students to a variety of career paths in tech and Microsoft’s work in accessibility. I am also on the planning committee for Latina Geeks whose mission is to empower and inspire Latinas by sharing technical knowledge, business skills and entrepreneurship resources through hands-on workshops and events. Alongside some of my colleagues, we are working to create more transparency about pathways into careers in tech for Latinas.

Education technology development is my lifelong passion and a space in which I’ve been working to make a difference.  I am grateful to have found a path and an opportunity to live out this lifelong passion where I can continue to honor my heritage and pay forward my grandparents’ strong belief in the power of education.

 

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