One of the most important roles at a school is the role of the principal. This is why we continue to introduce our readers to principals we see as strong and inspiring leaders. At the beginning of November we’d like you to meet a principal of a partner school from our new program called “Model Schools”. Maria Nesterova is also the principal of one of the first schools in the region of Varna that we are partnering with.
Maria Nesterova has been a principal of 7th Secondary School “Nayden Gerov” in Varna since 2002. She has a degree in mathematics from Sofia University and has worked as a teacher since graduation. She has worked at “Hadzhi Dimitar” school and the high school of mathematics in Varna where she used to be an assistant principal as well. Many of her students have won national and international competitions. She says that she has never stopped learning new things. This is why she has a number of additional diplomas, certificates and qualifications from Varna Free University.
You are the principal of one of our first partner schools in Varna and a participant in our new program “Model Schools”. The initial training has already started. What are your impressions and what has been the most valuable experience for you and your team?
Naturally, after so many years as a principal, the things I heard at the training were all familiar to me. The most valuable thing in my opinion is that the program organizes our knowledge and skills and makes us focus on the right things.
The trainers work very hard to make everything more interesting and useful for us.
Despite the pandemic, 7th Secondary School participated in EU Code Week again:
You discovered a partner school for other projects during your training in our program. What makes the collaboration between schools from different towns so important in your opinion?
On the surface, schools can appear to be the same – secondary schools, schools in the same regional capital, but in reality it’s as if they come from two different worlds. Communication allows us to get a different perspective, to collaborate on all levels, to exchange ideas, or just to become friends.
We actually found two partners in the program – 2nd Secondary School “Prof. Nikola Marinov” in Targovishte and Secondary School “Hristo Botev” in Kubrat. We already signed contracts for partnership as part of the national program Innovations in Action.
Why would you recommend such opportunities to other schools?
Because of everything I already mentioned – this program is engaging, the training sessions are provoking, we have to use different digital resources, we get to meet new people, and expand our horizons.
Describe your school in three words.
Big, diverse, innovative.
Describe the school of the future.
Simple, democratic, a community of like-minded people.
One of the greatest challenges of this year has been the transition from in-person to distance learning. How did you cope as an innovative school whose curriculum focuses on digital technology and computer arts?
Things happened quickly for us and without much difficulty because we already have an internal school system for communication in a digital environment. All we had to do was take advantage of it.
How did you prepare for the new school year after what happened in March and how are you dealing with the current unstable situation?
We are now exploring more features of Google G Suite for education: we hold meetings, general assemblies, parent-teacher conferences, teacher training sessions, research. Back in March we created a virtual teachers’ room on the platform where teachers share interesting and useful resources. Also, if someone wants to raise a question or needs support, they can do that in the virtual teachers’ room as well. We are still using that space and we haven’t stopped learning about different ways and methods of communication in the digital environment.
The school also participates in the month of cybersecurity every year:
The teachers at your school are implementing project-based learning. One of their goals is to develop students’ entrepreneurial spirit and to show them the practical applications of the subjects they teach. Tell us more about what helps you and your team to meet the ever changing expectations people have about education and to develop your professional skills so quickly?
Our new innovation project is related to the application of the so-called competency-based approach. This was one of the reasons we decided to choose the 21st-century skills specialization in the “Model Schools” program.
What makes a team successful?
Our team is successful because we keep learning and growing. We exchange best practices and strive to provide a variety of opportunities to our students. Not a day goes by without something interesting happening at school – we are constantly researching the latest trends in education and other areas as well.
What can the principal do to have a successful team?
If you allow me to make an analogy, I’d compare the principal to the crankshaft of the car engine: on the one hand the principal gets energy, stimuli, and resources from the team. On the other hand, they then have to redistribute the received energy and resources among the team.
What is the most important thing we need to change in our perception of school education?
Our society is not ready to accept the idea that schools and education in general can only be effective if the whole community is engaged – teachers, students, parents, the general public, and the coordinated actions by the government.