Two devoted teachers choose to teach at a small school where they find big support
Up until two years ago Inna Vasileva and Stanimira Stoyanova were set on completely different career paths.
Inna was a psychology student in Veliko Tarnovo University. After graduation she started working in the HR department of a software company in Sofia. She enjoyed her work, but was disappointed by the limited opportunities for long-term career development. Because of this she lost interest in HR and started looking for professional opportunities in the region of Veliko Tarnovo where her partner worked and lived.
Stanimira graduated from the Technical University of Gabrovo with a degree in business administration. She then got a master’s degree in human resource management and another bachelor’s degree in computer systems and technology. She worked in the tourism sector and then in the sector of electronics, but she never stopped looking for her dream job.
In the spring of 2020 Inna and Stanimira decided to pursue the same career path. They applied for Teach For Bulgaria’s program A New Way to Teaching as soon as they found out that Teach For Bulgaria was recruiting professionals with diverse backgrounds who were motivated to become teachers. After successfully completing the selection process and all preliminary trainings, Inna and Stanimira started teaching at Primary School “St. Cyril and St. Methodius” in the village of Polikraishte, near Gorna Oryahovitsa, Veliko Tarnovo.
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When You Find Your Calling
As soon as she found out about A New Way to Teaching, Inna instantly felt that the program might actually fill the professional void she was struggling with by providing her with plenty of room for growth and a sense of purpose.
“After reading about everything A New Way to Teaching had to offer to all aspiring teachers, I felt like it was something that could turn my life around. I was tempted to apply and soon after my adventure began,” shared Inna.
During her first year as a teacher she was responsible for the after school program of the primary school students and in September of 2021 she became the class teacher of a group of first-graders at Primary School “St. Cyril and St. Methodius”.
Stanimira was also able to find exactly what she was looking for in Teach For Bulgaria’s program – the opportunity to make one of her dreams come true.
“I have always wanted to work with children. But life had other plans and I ended up studying business administration. But my dream to become a teacher was very persistent and one beautiful day I saw that Teach For Bulgaria was recruiting new teachers – people who were ready to dedicate themselves to their students and provide them with the best education,” shared Stanimira. She became the class teacher of a group of second-graders during her first year at school and is now their third-grade teacher.
Ani Neykova, principal of Primary School “St. Cyril and St. Methodius” believes that teachers are the school’s best ambassadors because their work and care determine the quality of the learning process. According to her, Inna and Stanimira are doing a great job with this responsibility. What is more, they both fit perfectly into the principal’s vision to turn the school into a learning community where teachers are constantly learning, sharing knowledge and experience, and setting their learning objectives with the students.
“When something new is implemented every teacher needs a moment to think which takes time. Some teachers react with “O, no, I’ll have more paperwork and people will want to assess my work. No way!”, but there are also teachers who haven’t lost their natural curiosity and will want to know more, reflect on the idea, and dare to try this new thing out for themselves. To me, Teach For Bulgaria’s teachers are the ones who would definitely want to try new things and who would never give up,” commented Ani Neykova, the principal of the primary school in Polikraishte since 2020.
Finding the Place Where You Belong
If you ask Inna and Stanimira how they feel as teachers in a small school, located in a small village, they will give you a definitive answer – they feel like they belong there.
“I feel like we have been blessed. The principal is exceptionally supportive, she trusts us completely and lets us work however we see fit. Our colleagues are very open to the things that we do, they support us, and draw inspiration from our work,” said Inna and added that she was very happy with the level of engagement of the parents of her students. They want to know what goes on at school and are always available to talk with her.
Stanimira also underlined the fact that she, Inna, and the other two teachers who joined the program in 2021 were accepted extremely well by the rest of the teaching staff. This only confirmed how right she was to trust her intuition because a little before she even applied for the program she saw a report on TV about the school and how it could have been permanently closed because there were not enough students. The teachers organized protests and the minister of education allowed the school to stay open.
“I really wanted to start working at this particular school and to collaborate with my colleagues, so that the school could stay open and our students could get everything they need. My colleagues are wonderful, we work as a well-oiled machine, and things just work out. You cannot learn how to work with children from a book or even from university. No matter how well-educated you are, the everyday challenges are quite dynamic and any support you can get from your colleagues is great. They share their best practices in a way which makes you feel appreciated and we work great together. I want my students to realize that they are capable and I want them to believe in their potential. Because the world around us is a reflection of our own actions,” shared Stanimira.
Ani Neykova shared that she was very impressed by Inna and Stanimira’s strong motivation and she was happy to see how well they managed to work with the other teachers, especially with their mentor.
“Hats off to all teachers who are participating in Teach For Bulgaria’s program A New Way to Teaching,” concluded the principal.
Confident Teachers Lead to Confident Students
An example of a fruitful collaboration between the teachers from A New Way to Teaching and their colleagues at Primary School “St. Cyril and St. Methodius” is the new subject called “In the World of Emotions”. It was included in this year’s curriculum for third grade under the initiative of Todorka Pavlova, Bulgarian language and literature teacher.
“The main idea is to help children develop their emotional intelligence,” said Inna who currently teaches the new subject. “Nowadays, with all of our socially-isolating online activities, most children prefer watching TV and playing on their phones or computers to actually hanging out with friends. My students have had many challenges in dealing with their emotions, they often don’t know how to express their emotions, but so far have managed to reach the goals that we have set. I believe that with perseverance we’ll have even better results in the future. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen overnight. These skills require practice and a lot of talking.”
As the class teacher of the students who are learning how to manage their emotions, Stanimira believes that mental care is essential. And this requires building a relationship with them and understanding their feelings and emotions.
Teachers are expected to not only pour knowledge into their students’ heads, but to also be their trusted mentors. In order to meet these high expectations they need excellent preparation and constant professional support. The participants in Teach For Bulgaria’s program A New Way to Teaching receive plenty of training and support from the very start.
“The online summer academy during our preliminary training was magical. Even though it was the first online academy because of the pandemic, everything was very well adapted for online learning,” shared Inna and added that as part of the program she can also count on the support of her colleagues who teach all across Bulgaria.
Stanimira agrees with her.
“I was very well prepared after the summer institute and the summer academy and felt ready to start working with my new students, even though I didn’t study teaching in college.”
“Teaching is not just a job – if you truly want it, go for it. It takes a lot of patience, things don’t always work out the first time, but it gets better. My advice is don’t hesitate to pursue this, if this is what you want. You will be very well supported and you’ll have everything you need to be a good teacher.”
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