How It Started
In 2013 Natalia Ivanova was a fifth-grade student at “Neofit Rilski” School in the village of Dermantsi in the municipality of Lukovit where she was born. The school in Dermantsi is one of Teach For Bulgaria first partners in the region and we’ve worked together ever since. Back in 2013, at the beginning of the school year, Natalia found out that she was going to have a new class teacher – a young Bulgarian language and literature teacher who had just started working at the school.
The fifth-grader couldn’t even begin to imagine how her relationship with Violeta Taseva, a participant in Teach For Bulgaria’s program A New Way to Teaching, would develop. But after all these years the student and her teacher still remain close.
The Student Inspires the Teacher and the Teacher Inspires the Student
“Perhaps the biggest advantage of having Teach For Bulgaria teachers is that I learned to have more faith in my abilities. They showed us that everyone has a chance to grow, that everyone can do it. I’m not saying that the rest of the teachers in our village are less competent, but Violeta Taseva and her colleagues from Teach For Bulgaria’s program had amazing classes and we can whole-heartedly say that we felt understood, they helped us feel better at school,” Natalia reminisces. She is currently a student at Sofia University where she majors in informal education.
Violeta, on the other hand, is happy to have had the opportunity to work with students like Natalia. Natalia’s curiosity and drive make it a lot easier for Violeta to adjust to her new environment in Dermantsi. She arrived in the village at the end of August in 2013, after an intensive summer training which is obligatory for all participants in Teach For Bulgaria’s program A New Way to Teaching.
“Natalia has always been enthusiastic about trying new things. Whenever I suggested something new, she was always eager to participate, so she basically took part in all possible competitions, projects, and extracurricular activities at school – not just with me, but with all teachers,” commented Violeta.
Natalia loved her Bulgarian language and literature classes with Violeta. Violeta, on the other hand, admired Natalia’s drive towards self-improvement which she garnished with hard work and perseverance.
“I remember I had my students write an essay and I told them that they could raise their grade, if they integrated my feedback and resubmitted their work. And Natalia resubmitted her essay several times. She did not give up or feel discouraged, she just wanted to give it her best,” remembers Violeta. Violeta joined Teach For Bulgaria’s program because she knew from personal experience how crucial it is to have access to good education and devoted teachers in order to change your life for the better.
Learning as a Way to Exchange Ideas in a Supportive Environment
After teaching for two years in Dermatsi, Violeta returned to Sofia, but she kept supporting students from the regions of Lukovit and Yablanitsa as part of her project School Miracles. The project started back in 2013 under the initiative of Violeta and several of her colleagues from Teach For Bulgaria’s program in the Lovech region. School Miracles started as a series of school events involving inter-school collaboration and student exchange. However, not too long after the project was launched, the teachers decided that it would make more sense to have two separate programs: career orientation (for high school students) and leadership development (for students of any age who are interested in working on community development projects).
Years later, as part of School Miracles’ career orientation program, Violeta was Natalia’s mentor. She put Natalia in touch with diverse professionals who were motivated to help her pick a career. Violeta’s mother, also a Bulgarian language and literature teacher, accepted to be Natalia’s tutor when it became clear that Natalia was going to apply to her dream university with an entry exam in Bulgarian language and literature. At the time Natalia was a student at the Vocational School of Agriculture in Lukovit.
Education quickly became Natalia’s passion. This was a result of Violeta’s mother’s tutoring, the extracurricular activities at school including the first-of-its-kind Summer Leadership Academy back in 2016, and Teach For All’s global conference which took place in Bulgaria in the same year. Even though she only started working on her bachelor’s degree in informal education at Sofia University about two months ago, Natalia can already see how what she is currently learning overlaps with her experience with Teach For Bulgaria’s A New Way to Teaching alumni at school.
“Perhaps informal education is precisely what Teach For Bulgaria teachers apply in their work. In fact, we have talked about A New Way to Teaching in class in the context of how popular informal education is getting and how its methods should be combined with formal education, so that all children can learn,” Natalia explains. She is considering a specialization in early childhood education because she sees herself as a kindergarten or primary school teacher in the future.
Natalia is very happy with her choice not just because of the high quality of education that she gets at Sofia University, but also because the communication with her professors seems to be very similar to the way she used to communicate with her Teach For Bulgaria teachers at school.
“I expected that I wouldn’t be able to be this close with my university professors, but things are different in our faculty – we feel understood, our professors want to help us succeed. I feel like I’m back at school and I’m working with people I can trust.”
Teach For Bulgaria’s long-term partner in the Lovech region is Zlatna Panega Cement AD, part of the TITAN group. They have supported the work of teachers and Teach For Bulgaria alumni in the region since 2013.
“Neofit Rilski” School in the village of Dermantsi, Lukovit Municipality, is one of Teach For Bulgaria’s first partners in the region. The school works with participants and alumni of Teach For Bulgaria’s program A New Way to Teaching to this day.
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