Yuliya Georgieva: Every Child Has a Right to Quality Education
An interview of Novinite with Yuliya Georgieva, Transformational Teacher in Teach for Bulgaria.
Teach for Bulgaria [Zaedno v Chas] is a non-governmental organization which was founded and supported by America For Bulgaria Foundation in July 2010 to facilitate equal access for every child in Bulgaria to a quality education by adapting the model of the Teach For All network, which has been successful in more than 30 other countries.
The team is made up of young professionals with various background and experience who are willing to become public school teachers and to contribute to the development of education in Bulgaria.
All selected candidates undergo intensive training after which they are appointed for two years in a school, which according to their preferences may be situated in a big city, a small town or even a village.
Yuliya Georgieva is one of those young enthusiastic teachers who have devoted their time and knowledge to the improvement of the school system in Bulgaria. She has a Master's degree in Russian Philology and is fluent in Russian, English and French.
What has motivated a young professional like you to become a teacher in Teach for Bulgaria?
Two years ago I participated in a European Union educational project in Finland. The situation in their schools is quite different from that in Bulgaria. Our children also have the right to access better teaching methods and can achieve excellent results, too. When I found out about Teach for Bulgaria and their cause, it immediately occurred to me that this is how things can improve. I found it interesting, challenging and worth-while. In my family, education has always been valued and I want to share this positive attitude toward learning with my students. Despite all the difficulties I have had in the past two years, I do not regret making this decision at all.
What kind of problems did you encounter at school, did reality come up to your expectations?
Each of us works in a different environment and faces different problems. For me they stem mainly from the fact that I teach English to 150 children of different ages and I am not always able to give each of them my undivided attention. Things happen a lot easier when we have the support of the parents. Unfortunately, there are those who are not interested in what their child knows and can do, and care mostly about his or her grades.
In this line of thought, do you have the support of the other teachers and the parents?
I teach at School N132 in Sofia and I have the full support of all the other teachers who are always willing to lend a helping hand. Most parents are very open to the idea of someone working with their children, although progress takes time and does not reflect immediately on their marks. I have had arguments with parents regarding bad grades, but I am more worried about those who do not show interest in their child's results at all.
I know that in addition to teaching English you engage in extracurricular projects. How does your typical day at school look like?
My days at work are always different and it never gets boring. Every day I teach English in several classes, I see a lot of children of various ages, and I meet with students who want or need school counseling. This year we have organized a Spelling bee club. The kids enjoyed it greatly and were eager to attend the meetings throughout the school year. It is much better to work with students who are motivated and want to come to your classes. That's why next year I will focus on extracurricular activities.
Many popular Bulgarians have been involved in one way or another in the work of Teach for Bulgaria. Tell us more about some of them.
Teach for Bulgaria has many followers, and a lot of popular people have already visited our classes. Last year Mitko Iliev, who is a Bulgarian rally champion, has attended one of my lessons. He spoke to our seventh-graders who were very excited to meet someone famous and discussed it for a long time afterwards. This year the former professional tennis player and current environmental activist Magdalena Maleeva spoke about healthy dieting.
The European Commission Adviser Petar Natsev, who is my mentor as part of the Teach for Bulgaria mentoring program, has also visited one of my lessons and familiarized the children with the European Union opportunities appropriately for their age. My students seemed to be genuinely interested and later spent time searching for more information on the internet.
Moreover, every teacher of Teach for Bulgaria is able to do an internship or to work on a project. Last year I was an intern for Gergana Passy, former Deputy Foreign Minister and Foreign EU Affairs Minister, and I participated in the organization of educational events. My work there has proven to be quite useful, and I made many new contacts.
Mitko Iliev, rally champion of Bulgaria (c) attends the English lesson of Yuliya Georgieva's (l) seventh grade in School N 132 in Sofia.
In your opinion, what are the most pressing problems in Bulgarian schools right now?
Unfortunately, there are many problematic issues and solving them takes time and resources. Small schools are highly dependent on the number of their students, therefore they often feel the need to compromise.
Have you noticed positive changes as a result of the work of Teach for Bulgaria?
Of course things are improving, albeit slowly. My colleagues who teach to high-school students have many achievements in various competitions and some of the children have already been granted scholarships.
Recently, my colleague Elka Milusheva and her first-graders presented a geography encyclopedia written by the children which was published in their original handwriting. This is a big challenge for first-graders, who until recently did not know the letters of the alphabet.
I personally can say that during the last school term my sixth-graders read many classic books in English and prepared a glossary of all the new words. Also, one of my students will attend this year's American College of Sofia Summer Courses on a full scholarship.
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