Cesar Toala Veloz (MEd 2021)

Navigating Crossroads

Cesar Toala Veloz has passed many milestones and navigated many changes in his life trajectory. His studies range from architecture to design and communication to education; his career from teaching to translation and back to teaching; his residences from Ecuador and Argentina to the United States. This unique combination of skills and experience has formed a broad-minded approach well suited to managing the unexpected.

His teaching career began at Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo in Ecuador with courses focused on interior and exterior design. Here he met his future American wife, also a teacher, then moved to Virginia and found work as a Spanish translator for a technology group. Feeling the need to reconnect with the classroom, Cesar earned a teaching license through John Tyler Community College, subsequently accepting a position with a Virginia middle school. Drawn to return to an older student group, he moved to New Hampshire to teach Spanish language and culture in a private high school. Responding to the pandemic’s employment instability, the couple relocated to Ohio where he currently teaches Spanish in a public high school. Cesar remarks with a wry grin, “We are COVID refugees; we move as we must to find work.”

After coping with a cross-country move to a new demographic area, Veloz had to shift his classes online amid a public health crisis. He explains the professional and emotional energy required to teach a large minority student population facing pervasive economic issues exacerbated by the pandemic and the resulting abrupt conversion to online learning.

"It takes time to develop an online teaching persona but teachers were thrust into it overnight by necessity. With no internet access, a slow signal or one computer shared by school-age siblings, many of my students could not follow along in class. Some thrived on independent learning while others quickly sank without direct classroom contact. Looking back on it, I realize that educators were bonded by their struggle to adapt to an insanely stressful situation buoyed by our collective faith that we're doing our best in unprecedented circumstances. It will take time to process everything we have learned from this educational response and to grow from it."

Cesar determined to complete his pedagogical grounding with a Master of Educational Studies through the University of New Hampshire, thereby laying the groundwork for a future career in education administration. Not only did distance learning make it possible for him to earn a degree while working, but it also attuned him to the challenges faced by his online high school students.

"Focused on my long-term goal, I filled every spare moment with reading, writing, and reflection in a continual practice that honed my proficiency in English and research. The MEd program gave me a macrocosmic view of education that helps me understand the microcosmic issues I face in the classroom. This solid understanding encourages me to ask the “why” questions surrounding a student who is grappling with a tough situation. I believe that completing an MEd sets the stage for my future career goal as a school principal."

Veloz talks about his dream that American educators mine international school models for ideas adaptable to their own education systems. He muses about what success would look like if underfunded schools had ample resources to provide good academic support programs and to cover basic needs such as free meals for hungry students who cannot concentrate in the classroom. Fully vested in his students, Cesar grapples with the daily puzzle of weighing the needs of the individual against the collective benefit.

"Education is inextricably linked to economics which is linked to success. Every day I wonder whether to focus on the larger issue with a student or simply keep the peace for the sake of the general study body. As a teacher, I often struggle to make the right choice."

These self-reflective questions keep Cesar’s approach fresh and personal with a well-tempered awareness that some students need more than the foreign language skills he teaches. He looks closely at the social, economic, and family concerns that shape their learning experience, always striving to “make a difference” in their lives beyond the high school classroom.

"It is important to me that these students graduate with the skills to grow their lives, not just their careers but as happy, successful individuals. Nothing pleases me more than the news that one of my students has started a business or built a meaningful life."

Perhaps it is because of the unexpected crossroads of his own life that Cesar continues to evolve as a person and as a teacher to offer his students the very best experience he can create.

Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet