The participants who have successfully completed Teach For Bulgaria’s leadership and professional development program are over 160. One of Teach For Bulgaria’s organizational priorities is to support participants in their search for solutions and opportunities which would allow them to stay engaged in the sector of education and to continue working towards the success of every child even after they finish the program. Educational inequality is a major challenge and the work of a single organization or the efforts of a single person cannot overcome it.
Over 70% of Teach For Bulgaria alumni continue working in the education sector: one third of them teach, and the rest pursue careers in social entrepreneurship or work in the NGO sector. Some of them had the opportunity to present their successful organizations and initiatives at a conference called “United in Education – for the Success of Every School” which took place on March 23 at Software University in Sofia.
The conference was organized by Steps Academy (Akademia NIKE) and Software University “SoftUni”. Representatives of ten organizations and initiatives organized workshops and presented their work to the attending principals and teachers.
The National Network for Children is an alliance of civil society organisations and supporters, working with and for children and families across the whole country. Promoting, protecting, and observing children’s rights are the key principles uniting the alliance. The National Network for Children was presented by Plamena Nikolova, Policy Coordinator “Education”. She talked about the network’s role in policy-making and advocacy for high-quality education. Plamena is a Teach For Bulgaria alumna who taught at Professional High School “Georgi Sava Rakovski” in the town of Kostenets for two years.
Steps Academy (Akademia NIKE) is an organization of people with diverse professional experience in the system of education who provide trainings to teachers and principals. The team believes that students’ personal and professional development today leads to a brighter future tomorrow. The trainers at the academy are teachers who have worked with the instruments, methods, and techniques they present at the trainings. They offer practical advice and speak from experience about the challenges and difficulties of teaching.
Ivanka Yordanova, Head of Customer Relations, and Kristina Rangelova, Head of Training, presented some student engagement strategies. Ivanka and Kristina are part of Teach For Bulgaria’s class of 2013-2015 and taught in the village of Zhitnitsa and the town of Karlovo. Their third partner is Ekaterina Gramenova who is also an alumna of Teach For Bulgaria, part of the second class of participants 2012-2014.
Software University was created with the vision of an innovative modern educational center which helps people become professional programmers. SoftUni has adopted the learning-by-doing approach to education, the curricula has been created in partnership with IT companies and the focus is on the development of practical skills.
The university was presented by Aleksandar Ivanov, Head of Training at SoftUni Digital & SoftUni Creative, who is a Teach For Bulgaria alumnus and taught in the village of Chelopech for two years. Alex presented the SoftUni Digital program which is suitable for anyone interested in a career in digital marketing or in the management of their own business projects.
The Centre for Inclusive Education is a non-governmental organisation whose main aim is to promote inclusive school environment as a quality standard in education. The organization supports schools in their development towards communities of shared values and vision so that children are encouraged to develop skills and overcome difficulties, so that teachers feel supported and confident in their efficiency and ability to face challenges, and so that parents take responsibility and participate in their children’s education. Evgeniy Dimitrov, Training and Development Specialist, presented the project called “A Look Forward – School is Meaningful”. The project aims to compile and create a methodology for dropout prevention focused on strategies for improving student motivation and for adding practical value to subject knowledge. The project involves the voluntary and long-term participation of professionals from the local community who work with sixth and seventh-graders. Students can visit their professional mentors accompanied by their teachers. Evgeniy is a Teach For Bulgaria alumnus who taught in the town of Pirdop.
The Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre works towards increasing digital literacy among children and young people. It has been promoting the positive, safe and responsible use of the Internet and information and communication technologies since 2005. The main activities of the center include processing reports of child pornography, online sexual abuse and exploitation of minors, consulting children, minors, parents, and teachers about online incidents, providing trainings and information.
Petar Kanchev presented the Safer Internet Center. He is a Teach For Bulgaria alumnus and taught English and Philosophy in the town of Zlatitsa from 2014 to 2016. The guests who joined his workshop identified different 21st-century skills in the digital age and discussed ways to develop them in school.
TimeHeroes is a platform for volunteering and good-doing which collects ideas on how people can invest some of their time and skills and help others. TimeHeroes develops and supports a network of student volunteer clubs. Students who participate in these clubs can choose volunteer missions which are already available on the platform or create their own missions depending on the time they have to spare and on what their interests are.
Plamena Nikolova, Teach For Bulgaria alumna, a former teacher in the town of Kostenets, is responsible for the student volunteer clubs. She presented the benefits of volunteering as well as some volunteer initiatives which have engaged students from all over the country.
Education Bulgaria 2030 is a network of public figures and over 40 organizations from the public, private, and civic sector in the country. The vision of the organization is to provide opportunities to every child to develop all necessary skills and knowledge in order to be successful members of society. Education Bulgaria 2030 strives to involve citizens and policy makers in the work towards improving the quality of education and making it accessible to everyone. To this end, the organization tracks key performance indicators in the system of education, promotes good practices, and advocates policy amendments.
Zlatka Dimitrova is part of Education Bulgaria 2030. She taught English in the village of Hristo Danovo, near Karlovo from 2014 to 2016. Aleksandra Mircheva from Education Bulgaria 2030 presented the organization at “United in Education” and talked about the way different organizations and citizens can work together to achieve sustainable change in Bulgarian education.
Darbi enterprise is comprised of three different organizations – Darbi College (a private English language high school in Sofia, Darbi language school, and a consulting firm which provides professional advice, training, and career orientation to students interested in studying abroad. Stefan Rashkov is currently part of Darbi Consultancy. He is a Teach For Bulgaria alumnus and taught IT for two years and then English in the town of Pirdop
Darbi Consulting supports high school students in the process of applying to universities abroad. The support includes professional advice, assistance in submitting the applications and in applying for student loans, or in any other procedures.
During his presentation at “United in Education” Stefan talked about how teachers could help their students choose the right university, prepare for the application process, and pursue their dream job.
Petar Kanchev and Yordan Hodzhev are Teach For Bulgaria alumni from the class of 2014-2016 who taught in the town of Zlatitsa and the village of Mirkovo. The two of them decided to develop a product called EduPro – a system for performance evaluation and professional development of the entire school staff. The platform focuses on employee self-assessment (it could be the principal, a teacher, or another school employee). Employees assess their performance based on KPIs relevant to their professional development, identify strengths and areas of improvement, map out professional development goals, and determine how to track their progress. EduPro users are able to create a digital portfolio with their main accomplishments which would be useful during performance evaluations, if they decide to apply for other positions, or simply wish to be able to present their work.
Education without Backpacks is an organization that aims to assist the modernization of Bulgarian education and the generation of alternative educational and cultural resources in Bulgarian, mostly available online. Currently, the organization’s main project is the translation, popularization, and real-life application of the largest online portal for education in the world: Khan Academy. Khan Academy is being translated into over 100 languages with Bulgarian being among the most prevalent ones. Hundreds of volunteers, translators, editors, teachers, and specialists with various professional backgrounds, have spent thousands of hours translating, editing, and consulting since 2011. Several thousand US dollars have been donated by private donors.
Ivan Gospodinov, Chairman of the Board at Education without Borders, is a Teach For Bulgaria alumnus who taught German and philosophy at 74 Secondary School “Gotse Delchev” in Sofia. He presented the opportunities that Khan Academy Bulgaria has made available to Bulgarian students.