Last summer, as many partner organizations across the Teach For All network were faced with the challenge of training a new cohort of teachers in the midst of a global pandemic, the team supporting partners in Europe developed a Virtual Summer Institute designed to increase connectivity and morale among teachers and partner staff members and share knowledge and learnings across the region. In 2021, based on positive feedback from participants and staff, the Europe Virtual Summer Institute was held for the second time, hosting 17 sessions for over 1600 participants from more than 20 countries. These sessions were designed as a complement to partners’ own training institutes, and each organization’s participation was tailored to its development goals and participants’ needs. The following is reflection on the experience by Teach For Armenia’s Leadership Development Manager, Alberta Piroeva:
Just a few short months ago, Teach For Armenia held its seventh annual Teacher Leadership Academy, which takes place each summer to provide training and development to the newest cohort of teachers before they enter their classrooms. Due to COVID-19, the 2021 Teacher Leadership Academy was held in a hybrid format—the first few weeks consisted of online sessions followed by additional weeks of face to face work time, where the participants not only enhanced their teaching skills but also engaged in a strong and supportive team culture.
A lot has changed at Teach For Armenia over the last year, as we’ve worked to address the challenges facing our students due to the pandemic and the war with Azerbaijan. As a result, Teach For Armenia began implementing an emergency education response based on the principles of Social Emotional Education and Change-Based Learning, a form of project-based learning designed to develop student leadership.
This year, the Teacher Leadership Academy also focused on Change Based Learning. Over the course of a few weeks, the students showed great enthusiasm and willingness to carry out research with their teachers, identify the strengths and weaknesses of their villages, and based on that, present project proposals aimed at developing their own communities. Their projects included everything from nature conservation to creating labs for STEM subjects to starting a local business of dried fruits. The whole process was a marvelous journey for the students to rediscover their communities and rethink their potentials and capabilities.
Alongside Teach For Armenia’s own Teacher Leadership Academy, the teachers participated in the Teach For All Europe Virtual Summer Institute. Being connected to the global network and feeling that you are a part of something huge and valuable is a crucial part of inspiring the teachers enthusiasm and willingness to put all of their efforts into this work. Sharing their thoughts and concerns about situations in their classrooms and the needs of their students makes the teachers realize that despite diverse cultures and approaches across the region, there is a universal cause that unites us all and creates an invisible bond among all partner organizations and fellow teachers: ending educational injustice and spreading positive change throughout every corner of each country.
Teach For All’s Europe Virtual Summer Institute has given the teachers a platform to voice their concerns and come up with their own solutions, and to listen to each other deeply by acknowledging common issues and embracing them. The sessions and discussions helped them go deeper into the causes and consequences of certain phenomena they will encounter in their classrooms, such as bullying, trauma, and emergency situations. It is well-known that restrictions stimulate creativity, and in this case, the barrier of the screen did not prevent teachers from across the region from connecting with each other and further developing their thoughts and ideas. “I didn’t know we were so alike and that it would be so easy to connect with the teachers living in completely different countries, having completely different education systems, yet sharing the same approaches and viewpoints towards education,” one of our teachers mentioned in amazement.
Educational injustice doesn’t have a face or nationality—it is a global problem. Therefore, it should be solved globally while maintaining loyalty to local roots. The safety and education of students has always been a priority for Teach For Armenia, and we are glad to see that the ranks of our teachers are replenished with individuals who do not hesitate to invest their potential in ensuring students in rural communities receive a quality education. We believe that the vision we have will become a reality thanks to teachers who believe in the revolutionary impact of education and thanks to the fact that it is happening worldwide.