Maria Teresa – Founder of Makeducation

[quote style=”boxed”]Hard work. If I have a vision or a goal I will do everything I can to get there even if that means staying up late working, doing public speaking (something I am definitely scared about but I still do it if it helps me accomplish my goals) and finding mentors.[/quote]

Maria Teresa Chavez is passionate about finding the most efficient way in which humans are capable of learning. Right now she is starting to work on a couple of projects related to education and learning and she hopes to start working on finding a cure to brain disorders in the near future.

A year ago Maria Teresa was a normal middle schooler but a lot has changed in her life during 2012. She decided to go out of the normal educational system into another educational method. Since then she realized that she was the only one responsible of her own education and her life.

On the summer of 2012 Maria Teresa attended the AwesomeMath summer program at Cornell university, another really important milestone on her journey. In November she went to the Under20Summit in New York, an event sponsored by the Thiel Foundation and a week later she gave a talk at TEDxYouth@UFM.

Currently Maria Teresa spends most of her time working on Makeducation, an open an evolving learning platform. Apart from that she is a contributor for AliveNDead, a blog about embracing uncertainty and risk; she writes on other personal blogs, dances ballet and studies. Maria Teresa is currently a 14 year old student at Acton Academy Guatemala in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I am working on the first version of Makeducation, an open and evolving learning platform. What I want to do with the website is to enable every person to have access to a personalized education and have the opportunity to share their knowledge and opinions with the world. The main focus of the website is that instead of having experts deciding how people should learn, the content is taught in the way in which the users learned it and the content can be modified in order to find the best way in which you can learn a certain topic.

Apart from that I am also working on an educational project at a local community in which 65% of the people suffer of chronic malnutrition. The goal with this project is to teach the kids with computers and resources available on the internet and at the same time I am starting a research project to see if their cognitive functions can be improved by using brain training games.

I am also a blogger. I have many personal blogs that I use as online portfolios and I am a contributor for AliveNDead.The rest of my time (usually I don’t have much time left) is used for taking online classes, reading and problem solving.

Where did the idea for Makeducation come from?

I came up with the idea to make the website because I noticed that most of the learning resources available were being regulated by someone, mainly ‘experts’. While some people might argue that using experts is better, I don’t believe this is the case. If we focus on how people learn instead of how people teach then we might be able to learn more efficiently. An example of how getting rid of experts can be helpful is Wikipedia but there are still things to improve from that model and that is what I am trying to do.

What does your typical day look like?

For me there is no such a thing as a typical day, I do different things every day and I never know what to expect from the next day. The things that my days usually include are waking up around 5:30 am, going to Acton Academy, working on my projects during the afternoon, blogging and checking my email. I also dance ballet twice a week and I spend at least 3 hours taking classes at college per week.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Hard work. If I have a vision or a goal I will do everything I can to get there even if that means staying up late working, doing public speaking (something I am definitely scared about but I still do it if it helps me accomplish my goals) and finding mentors.

I think persistence is the most important skill to have when you are trying to bring an idea to life because you aren’t going to get things done in just a single step so you have to be persistence and keep going even when things get complicated. Another important thing is surrounding yourself with the right people. Not many things are done by a single person and if you wanted to do a startup by yourself there are way too many skills you will need. You are more likely to be able to bring an idea to life with help from the right people.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

More people getting into the fields of neuroscience and biology and the discoveries that are being made in those two fields. Also the educational revolution, more people are starting to realize that normal schooling is not the only nor the best path to take to be successful.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I haven’t had any formal job, unless you consider school a job… But if you actually consider it a job it is the worst job I’ve had and what I learned from school is that even when you have to stick to the standards, there is still a way to do things differently and more creative and when you do that you’ll learn even more.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I don’t know if I would do anything different. In one hand I wish I had realized that I am responsible of my own education earlier and to start working on meaningful things before but in the other hand I think the experiences I’ve had so far are the ones that took me to the place in which I am right now so maybe without going through all the things I have done I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing today.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Learning. I think it is possible to learn from anyone and anything. You just have to pay attention and be willing to learn. Some of the most valuable things you’ll learn will be from people and situations you weren’t expecting to learn from but also a lot of important lessons will be missed if you aren’t willing to learn.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I think there is no such a thing as failure. Everything is a learning opportunity so you gain something from it. The only way in which you would fail is if you ever stop learning. It is true that sometimes things don’t go as you planned or expected but those are just mistakes. Having said that, my biggest mistake was when I was contacting biology labs asking if they could let me work with them. Out of 50 people just 2 gave a positive answer, the rest either didn’t reply, said no or called me incompetent. What I did was to see what I did wrong and start working on my email sending abilities.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

People are starting to care more about their health so anything related to physical or mental health is a good business idea.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would remove regulation. I think a way to tackle this would be collecting a lot of data and showing it to people so they realize what regulation is really doing but I am not sure if this would work because society would have to change radically…

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

Really few people know I am extremely messy. I am working on being more organized but right now all my stuff is really messy and my mom gets angry about that all the time. Other thing I do a lot is refreshing my email several times in a row to see if I got an email but it didn’t appear because of connection problems and most days I leave my phone on (accidentally) and wake up at 4 am because of College Board’s daily newsletter.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Art Of Problem Solving – it is an amazing site for math problem solving. Almost every problem I search for is there and if it isn’t I can just post it and get a solution within hours. Also it is a great way to practice problem solving and to have something to do on your spare time.

Evernote – it is really easy to use and it really helps me to have all my stuff organized in one place plus I can use it from everywhere even without an internet connection.

TED – it is a great place to learn new things about many topics and to get inspired.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. It definitely gives you something to think about plus it talks about many things that are key to being successful.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

New Scientist – amazing tweets about science and it is a really good way to know what is happening without having to subscribe to their magazine.
MIT – their tweets are also really cool. I like to know what is new in science research and this is definitely a way to know about that.
Giancarlo Ibarguen – his tweets always give me a lot to think about. He tweets about a lot of different things but in all of them there is always room for thought and questioning.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Today in the morning and the cause was my dad and my two brothers making jokes. I laugh every day mostly because of my family and friends and sometimes because of jokes my little brother considers ‘geeky’.

Who is your hero?

My hero is Laura Deming. There are many reasons of why she is my hero but the most important one is that I think she is an amazing person and I admire her passion as well as her ability to actually execute (starting from a young age) and work on the problem she sees in the world instead of just talking about it (making things happen instead of just making noise). Also she is really humble and intelligent.

How do you manage to have time to do all what you do?

I have been asked this several times. What I do to have enough time is that I sacrifice some things. For example, I do not watch TV nor spend as much time on Facebook as I used to and I stay up as late as I need to be able to finish what I want to do. Some people consider my behavior impedes me from being a real kid but what I think is that while I am doing something that I am passionate about it doesn’t really matter.

What has been the riskiest decision you’ve made?

The riskiest decision I’ve made so far is going out of school because there was too much at stake. If things didn’t go well I would have to go back to sixth grade (because I don’t even have a certificate of completion for that grade) and I would have to start all over again. Also my friends were at stake because I didn’t know if I would continue to see them in the future but at the end I think I made the right choice. If I wouldn’t have made that choice I would still be at school and I wouldn’t be doing anything valuable. Also that single decision lead me to other important decisions afterwards.


Makeducation’s Website:
AliveNDead’s Website:
Maria Teresa on Blogger:
Maria Teresa on WordPress:
Maria Teresa on Twitter: @materechm
Maria Teresa’s email: [email protected]
Maria Teresa on LinkedIn:ía-teresa-chávez/4b/719/851/en