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2.5.2023 |

Meet the HundrED Team: Mariah Voutilainen, Research Coordinator

Meet Mariah, our new Research Coordinator! As a former teacher, Mariah brings the educator's perspective to the table as a core member of the Research Team.

Tell us a little about yourself

Growing up near Washington, D.C. I was exposed to a wonderful soup of cultures, languages, and ways of life. A child of mixed Black American and South Asian roots, I always took pride in my unique heritage. This pride was tempered by an acute awareness of the sacrifices and continued struggles of first-generation immigrants like my mother, as well as Black Americans like my father. Education was of paramount importance, the key to future success. One of my strongest memories is of my parents' daily encouragement for my sister and me: “Highest Level of Excellence!”  

As I grew older, I saw how important it was to have my parents’ support and I knew that I had to be among those who gave back and lifted others up. To that end, at Harvard College, I volunteered, tutoring recent immigrants and helping them to integrate into their new community. I joined the Teach For America movement and became a 3rd-grade teacher in an under-resourced school. Being a part of a wave of change in the educational landscape was simultaneously eye-opening and challenging. I saw how fresh ideas could revitalise the students and teachers, even as they struggled with other barriers to educational equity. This inspired me to get my MEd at University of Washington, to learn more about the history of education in the USA. All of my experiences have strengthened my resolve to spread educational opportunity to children everywhere.

When not in the teaching, learning, or research mode, I love to spend time with my Finnish husband, three soon-to-be-grown children, and our very active Lagotto Romagnolo puppy. I am an avid reader of world literature and have been known to set very ambitious yearly book goals. My other hobbies include ballroom dance, knitting socks, and writing poetry.

Why do you want to work at HundrED?  

When I was invited to join the HundrED team, I knew I was about to make connections with and collaborate alongside individuals and organisations that are fully committed to the goal of providing excellent educational opportunities for all children worldwide. Working with HundrED on this mission is a golden opportunity for me. Learning about all of the up and coming innovations in education as well as making connections with the experts and innovators on the ground is truly exciting. Sharing HundrED’s work with fellow educators is equally motivating. And of course, being a part of putting together HundrED’s Global and Spotlight Collections is such an honour!

Why should we change our schools?

By its very nature, school is always changing in some way given its dependence on community, culture, and politics,. In changing how we do school, how we develop educational policies, and how we involve students and families in these processes, we demonstrate an understanding that society is advancing. But are we moving in a direction that is more inclusive and closer to levelling the playing field for children everywhere? In today’s closely connected world, it is unconscionable to ignore the fact that there are children who are still not receiving equity in education. We have an obligation to our interconnected communities to use all available resources to ensure that high quality educational experiences are the norm for everyone, so that our societies continue to evolve in a positive direction–one that empowers and uplifts youth everywhere. It is an age-old ideal to do better for the next generation and to embrace change in the process. 

Why is innovation in education crucial today?

For me, the answer is clear: We want to have compassionate, creative, intelligent, empathetic, thriving societies. Innovation in education is one key to ensuring that kind of bright future. In the very act of innovating, we acknowledge that there are other alternatives, better methods, ways of giving learning a fresh take. Innovation allows us to relight the spark of creativity for all key stakeholders, but most importantly, learners!

Three HundrED innovations you love and why

As an educator, clicking through the HundrED innovations pages makes me feel like a kid in a candy store! Three innovations that particularly excited me for their attention to pressing issues in education are:

1) Language Explorers - I have worked in schools where a significant number of students come from a bi- or multilingual home. How amazing to encourage family involvement to promote the beauty of linguistic pluralism, while helping students to feel seen and included in their community.

2) Speed School - This program removes barriers to education for children who have not been able or allowed to attend the first few years of school. Empowering students by helping them to quickly make up for missed school years and enter the classroom with their peers: This is the epitome of creating accessibility and equity in education!

3) Teaching at the Right Level - Not only do I see this program as something that clearly benefits students needing extra support to improve numeracy and literacy, this innovation reframes a hallmark of great teaching- meeting each student on their own level and providing them with the necessary tools to succeed. 

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