The Teach For Bulgaria teacher from Stara Zagora left the corporate world to pursue happiness and found it in the classroom
Less than two years ago Evelina Stoycheva’s daily routine reflected her lifestyle of an average corporate employee. She got up, went to the office, came back home after a typical uneventful 8-hour work day, and went to bed only to do it all over again the following morning. After years of school and university education, multiple additional qualifications and certificates, Evelina thought she was expected to find a “prestigious job”, work at a “fancy office”, and make lots of money. So she met these expectations, but then found herself emotionally drained and daydreaming of a career U-turn.
This U-turn led Evelina straight to First Primary School “Georgi Bakalov” in Stara Zagora. She started teaching English to middle school students in the fall of 2018. This, however, would not have been possible, if Evelina hadn’t joined Teach For Bulgaria’s leadership and professional development program. The program provided her with the required teaching certification, additional training, and school placement. She also found “a community of young, motivated, and socially-engaged professionals who don’t just go to work, but work miracles and make a difference”. This was exactly what Evelina needed.
The Tipping Point
“I gathered my thoughts and decided that life was too short to live according to someone else’s expectations,” Evelina shared while she talked about her career U-turn.
“I decided it was time for me to finally do something which would bring joy and satisfaction to my life, especially when I see the results of my hard work. I was looking for something more than just a job; a source of inspiration which could motivate me to do my best – with pleasure, not because I had to,” Evelina added.
Applying for Teach For Bulgaria’s program was an impulsive decision back then, but Evelina was certain that it pointed her in the right direction.
Once she was accepted Evelina started her journey with Teach For Bulgaria’s Preliminary Institute. This preliminary training allows participants to learn more about our educational system, attend a series of workshops dedicated to strategies for effective teaching, observe actual classes at different schools, and discuss them with current teachers. Evelina spent the summer before her first year at school in Teach For Bulgaria’s intensive Summer Institute where she had the opportunity to learn the basics of teaching. Evelina majored in tourism and her English level was good enough to get her in a qualification program for ESL teachers at Veliko Tarnovo University (Teach For Bulgaria covers all university qualification costs for participants who enter the program with no prior teaching certificates).
A Day in Her New Life As a Teacher
Teach For Bulgaria participants have the opportunity to choose where they teach from a list of vacancies submitted by the principals of our partner schools. Evelina chose to become an ESL teacher at First Primary School “Georgi Bakalov” in Stara Zagora. Her colleagues gave her a warm welcome and the principal invited Evelina to meet her students during her very first visit to the school. “When I first entered the classroom I saw my future students’ big smiles and bright eyes,” Evelina shared. And that was when she realized “she was right where she belonged”.
Her first weeks at school, however, were filled with fears and questions. She realized that a lot of her students came from broken families and were growing up in a drastically different environment from what Evelina herself had experienced as a child. She was also shocked to see how wide the achievement gap was and that it was determined by environmental factors.
“It would be in my students’ best interest, if people just stopped trying to label them because of their own prejudice,” Evelina is absolutely certain.
“Children can’t choose where they are born, they can’t choose their family, and how they are raised, so they shouldn’t be labelled because of choices that they didn’t really make,” she says.
And she adds that her students “are just as wonderful, special, talented, and bright as any other kid” and that “all they need is support and someone to believe in them and give them a chance to develop their potential.”
Evelina believes that teaching is far from over when the bell rings. She organizes extracurricular activities and invites guest speakers in her classroom so that her students can meet as many role models as possible. In the summer of 2019 Evelina and some of her colleagues organized summer schools in the villages of Zmeyovo and Hrishteni. Their goal was to help children develop their success skills and mindsets, teamwork, creativity, emotional intelligence, and reading literacy. Evelina also co-organized a family day in an attempt to get parents more engaged in the learning process.
All of this hard work serves one ultimate goal:
“I want my students to stop being afraid of having dreams and pursuing them. I want them to be responsible and take initiative; if they see something they don’t like, I don’t want them to shrug their shoulders in acceptance, I want them to fight in order to change it. I want them to be able to defend their positions with courage, they may be children, but they do have a voice which deserves to be heard.”