“You are joining a community which is not just a group of people who share the same values and purpose. Our work is sustainable and long-term because if we want to tackle a system so complex and important such as the education system, we won’t be able to get any results unless we work sustainably in the long term.” The CEO of Teach For Bulgaria, Evgenia Peeva-Kirova, addressed the participants in the class of 2018-2020 at the opening of the eighth Summer Institute. They started their preliminary intensive training on June 9, in Lukovit, Lovech.
“The change we want to see in the world is not possible with just our own individual actions. It will happen when we stand united with many people from different places in Bulgaria and abroad; people from different organizations and institutions,” Evgenia Peeva-Kirova added.
She also reminded the nearly 70 teachers-to-be that the Summer Institute and the school year ahead were just “the beginning of the beginning” of their long-term work to provide equal access to high-quality education to every child in Bulgaria, regardless of where they live, which school they go to, and their socio-economic status.
There are professionals with experience in various fields in the new class of participants in the program. Their average age is 28 and nearly half of them have some academic or professional experience outside of Bulgaria. They are going to teach at Teach For Bulgaria partner schools in 11 regions in the country. The seven-week Summer Institute is the basis of their preliminary teacher training. Prior to the start of the institute, all participants have gone through a day in the shoes of a current teacher, workshops, meetings with alumni, classroom observations at several schools, and various teaching materials and reading lists.
In parallel with the intensive summer training, participants who are not certified teachers started their university qualification at Teach For Bulgaria’s partner universities in compliance with all state requirements.
Natalia Mihalevska, Head of the Education of Bulgarians Abroad and School Network Directorate at the Ministry of Education and Science, attended the opening of the Summer Institute. She urged the new teachers to be very brave in their work. “You have to be very positive, to believe that tomorrow will be better than today, no matter what. And you should truly love the children and show them your love every day and in every class – especially when they are most vulnerable, when they make mistakes, or in moments of personal crisis,” Natalia Mihalevska added. The Head of the Lovech Regional Management of Education, Elenko Nachev, also addressed the new class of participants with the message – “Be teachers!”
“Here at Teach For Bulgaria, we believe that educational inequality can be ended quite soon. In order for this to happen, however, we need new people,” stated the Chief Program Officer of Teach For Bulgaria, Trayan Trayanov, during the opening of the institute.
“People who think in a new way and work with the highest possible expectations of their students; people who are constantly learning – from their practice, colleagues, experts in various fields. People who take responsibility for what happens in their classrooms, schools, and communities. People who don’t blame our problems on “our Bulgarian mentality”, “the bad generation” or “the situation in Bulgaria”. People who can work together to solve these problems. We are absolutely certain that you are these people,” Trayan Trayanov added.
In the first weeks of the Summer Institute the new Teach For Bulgaria participants learn how to create a vision for their work, plan lessons, motivate students to accomplish big goals, get parents more involved in school activities, work with the national standards of education, and collaborate with other teachers and the school administration. The training involves many practical assignments including a field study in Lukovit and the neighbouring villages whose purpose is to get acquainted with the community and context in which many of their future students live.
The training of all participants in the program also includes the internationally recognized Teaching as Leadership model. It is developed to be effective with students with low educational achievements from families with low socioeconomic status. Teaching as Leadership has six tested principles which help teachers see a considerable student motivation boost and an improvement in their students’ academic results.
During the three-week Summer Academy the participants in the program teach classes from first to twelfth grade at two schools in Sofia. They teach different subjects while a team of coordinators observe, give feedback and guidance so that teachers can improve their work in the classroom. They teach every day, meet with their coordinators, plan their next lessons, grade student work, and analyze the data from their classes.
During the school year teachers receive ongoing training and have access to teaching resources based on their individual needs. Every Teach For Bulgaria participant works with a coordinator who has prior teaching experience and provides professional support during the two-year program. The coordinator visits and observes classes, leads monthly meetings, gives feedback and guidance so that the teacher can constantly improve their work in the classroom.