Does the name Paloma Noyola Bueno sound familiar to you? No? Well, me neither. But according to an article by Wired Magazine, this 12-year-old could be the Next Steve Jobs.
Paloma attends José Urbina López Primary School that sits just across the US border in Matamoros, Mexico, a city smack down in the middle of the war on drugs. There are regular shoot-outs and bodies are often left in the streets. There is only one small cinder-block barrier that separates the school from this war. Although this school is often called un lugar de castigo — “a place of punishment” — it was Paloma’s solace, according to Wired Magazine.
Paloma grew up in central Mexico. Her family moved to a border city, hoping for a better life, but only found themselves living beside a dump, her father having to scavenge for scraps. Paloma would recite the day’s lesson everyday after school to her father, hoping to cheer him up. School was never challenging for her so repeating the information was a breeze, Wired Magazine said.
Entering fifth grade, Paloma found herself in a classroom with a teacher named Sergio Juárez Correa. He was a teacher looking for a way to change his students’lives. For five years, he only taught the government-mandated curriculum and saw low test scores and little engagement. He wanted to do more for these kids.
Sergio went above and beyond for his students. He worked hard to find a way to help them learn and grow. He began reading and doing research to find new teaching methods and found a video describing the work of Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University in the UK.
Sergio tested out Mitra’s teaching method, called “minimally invasive education,” allowing his students to use their curiosity and self-learning to solve open-ended problems.
In February 2012, Paloma’s father became very ill. While on his deathbed, he told Paloma, “You are a smart girl. Study and make me proud.” And that is exactly what she did.
Using this system, Sergio saw 10 of his students scores on the ENLACE exam, Mexico’s version of the SATs, skyrocket to over 900, including Paloma’s. She scored a 921, the highest score in the country, according to Wired Magazine.
This story is about two outliers who overcame a lot to do great things. Sergio made a huge difference in these children’s lives. By going above and beyond his job description as a teacher at José Urbina López Primary School, he gave them confidence and the power of knowledge they never had before. He took a huge risk in straying from the government curriculum. Paloma showed persistence and the ability to capitalize on her failures. Often, those who grow up in poverty cannot seem to overcome it. She pushed on and continue to try to learn and better herself, even after losing her father.
Going above and beyond. Taking risks. Being persistent. Overcoming failure. These are four characteristics of an outlier. And Sergio and Paloma truly embody what it means to be one.
What are you doing to become an outlier? Do you have a story about yourself or someone else who has embodied the characteristics of an outlier? Share your story here.