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Carmen Chang Ortiz

Carmen Chang Ortiz was the fourth of eight children born to Carlos Chang and Francisca Ortiz in Santiago, Province of Veraguas, in the Republic of Panama. She started teaching at the early age of 14 after receiving her elementary teacher credential from the Normal de Institutores in the capital city. A gifted teacher and a very entrepreneurial person, she started the first secretarial school in Santiago in the mid-1930s. When the Normal School was founded in Santiago in 1936, she was invited to become the first secretarial sciences teacher. Not wanting to work in a secondary school without the proper credentials, she decided to pursue college level studies in the United States. After World War II ended, this became possible and Carmen and her younger sister enrolled in Southeast Missouri Teachers College despite their non-existent knowledge of the English language.

When interviewed by President Parker for admission, she insisted that her field of study would be mathematics and that her determination would enable her to learn sufficient English in record time. Upon graduation, she became a math teacher at Panama’s prestigious Instituto Nacional. In 1960, she retired as a public servant and founded the country’s leading vocational trade middle school, the Instituto Tecnol?gico Rodolfo Diesel. This school, with a 2,000+ enrollment, pioneered vocational education in Panamá and provided her with much satisfaction for having opened then non-traditional careers to many students.