“You are capable of doing anything you set your mind to.”
We see this ubiquitous quote plastered on aging motivational posters and weathered car stickers, in places like middle school classrooms or doctor’s offices, or uttered by educators, parents, and authority figures until the words seem to have no meaning. But for Lilia Avendano, this saying is her truth.
From sunrise to late afternoon, the endless squeaking of cherry-red Expo markers can be heard gliding across the board producing equation after equation: a world of numbers at her fingertips.
Although Avendano’s passion for mathematics is apparent, this high school teacher didn’t always have the same attitude towards the subject many students greatly struggle with. Avendano’s first love was actually chemistry.
She dreamt of becoming a doctor like many MAST students, but over time, this wish had to be dropped. Political problems caused her university, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, to close suddenly and Avendano was left without schooling. Finally, a pedagogical university gave Avendano the opportunity she needed and she chose the “road less traveled,” math.
“So I went to the university, the pedagogy university and said to myself ‘I have to study’. I have to do something. I could not be waiting for the first university that I was in to reopen. I thought it would probably be a long time. I went to the teaching university and I checked what were the options [that] nobody signed for and I saw that there was math. Only a few people signed up for it, so I said okay, I’m going to do that. And I went and studied math. I always tell myself we are capable of doing whatever we want,” Avendano said.
Avendano’s effort, hard work, and optimism led to a job offer that would change her life forever. She had to choose between the United States or Japan: Uncle Sam or The Land of the Rising Sun?
Because of her preference to speak Spanish, Avendano’s choice became obvious and she booked the next flight from Bogota, Colombia to Miami.
Here, Avendano formed her new life, got married, and had her two successful children. Her son, a former student of MAST Academy now works in Miami, while her daughter is currently attending Florida International University.
Avendano says her greatest accomplishment is seeing her students succeed, as well as influencing the lives of those who sit in her classroom. Avendano enjoys her students’ success just as she would enjoy her own children’s.
When she is not educating her students, Avendano devotes her time to solving puzzles, creating new things, planting, and, of course, loving elephants.
Every once in a while, she receives emails from former students stating what kind of job he or she was able to obtain because of what Avendano taught in her classroom: mathematics and life lessons.