Vesela Bogdanovic is a Macedonian teacher who lives in Bitola and works as a primary school teacher at the elementary school Koco Racin, in the village Ivanjevci, Mogila, Bitola region, for 12 years. She is the author of four web pages and over 200 short educational movies for children, recorded in her colorful classroom and school yard. The movies are showing the everyday educational practice and are live encyclopedia of excellent pedagogical examples.
She won numerous state and international awards from the educational sphere and was nominated an educational Microsoft expert from Macedonia. You can read more about her work and achievements in the interview prepared by Cultus.
1. Tell us something more about your creative teaching, how did you come up with the idea to begin with the interactive methods of presenting the educational content?
Our classroom is like a magic country from the fairy tales and stories. One day we are wearing Smurfs’ clothes that are doing math to get to the hidden lake, the next day we have princes and princesses living in our classroom, with glorious dresses made of old drapery, who are practicing drawing and writing of ”royal” letters, creating message in bottles, composing giant letters and many other interesting activities.
We learn the letters and numbers, we learn reading and calculating with hooks and fishes made of stone, we play games with old plastic bottles and cups. At our working tables, we frequently have flour, salt, sugar, shaving foam and we even make theatre scenes.
The children have computers and interactive board and anyone can learn at his or her own pace, limitlessly, with a selection of means according to ones’ wishes and needs. For us, the most important thing is to be happy. We want the children’s need for games and exploring to be satisfied. We work with materials taken from the nature, but we also use the latest interactive educational technology.
The largest part of the didactical means is made by ourselves, we create these together, by using waste and natural materials. The children are my partners, helping me to discover new methods, means and techniques of work, on a simple manner.
The pupils are telling me their secrets, wishes and needs for learning through games, I follow and connect their desires in a correct and accurate realization of the educational goals, given in the annual program, for all subjects.
In the last couple of years Microsoft is my permanent supporter. It gives me aid and a chance for professional development, encouraging me in the implementation of the methods, techniques and the means for educational purposes, improving the 21st century skills among the youngest.
In March 2014, I have represented Macedonia at the World Global Forum in Barcelona, as Microsoft expert, where I had a chance to study and cooperate with the best teachers from all over the world.
The Foundation Step by step is with me from the very beginning of my teaching career, fully supporting and encouraging my work. It enables me present my methodology at conferences outside our country and acting as a teacher for the teachers within the framework of their projects.
2. How did you come up with the idea to work with the pupils in such an original manner?
I grow up in a family where my grandmother, grandfather and my mother are teachers. My mother was Macedonian language teacher, so I grew up with the books and the educational programs. She was not an ordinary traditional teacher. For twenty years she was dedicated in creating entertaining educational content for her pupils. I still have in front of my eyes, the most beautiful drama activities and celebrations that she was working on with great love and professionalism. Her methods of creating, her stories and the creative approach are a role model for successful motivation. From my youngest age she took me to her classes, so that I can follow her lectures. It is my great pleasure that I have a chance to work in the same school, where she worked, for the past 12 years.
As a student at the Pedagogical Faculty in Bitola, I had a chance to be part of the first generation of teacher under the program Step by step. I liked the methodology that has motivated me to work on a creative manner, to be a joyful teacher that has a goal to work with children that will be happy to overcome the educational content.
3. What are your profiles on the social media? Tell us briefly about each of them.
I work on several web pages. Everything that is part of my every day work is free of charge and it is available to everybody. On my Internet pages, I record and post the lectures from the classes, the stories we make and the worksheets for schoolwork/homework. In this way, I offer free educational resources to the pupils, the parents, as well as the teacher and the students – future educators. The recorded classes are frequently followed in the houses of the children in the rural areas, that do not have kindergartens in their villages.
In parallel with these activities, I am contacting many teachers from Macedonia and the neighbouring countries on daily basis, with whom I cooperate and exchange ideas.
I announce my content on the following social media profiles:
School Tube: schooltube.com/channel/veselab
as well as my web pages :
(worksheets:ws1 and ws2)
4. In your opinion, how will the education in the primary schools develop in the next five years?
Macedonia always had and it still has good quality of educators. I am positive that we, the teachers from our country, should have a chance for positive quality promotion that will initiate more successful work and willingness to be promoted. I am not speaking only about myself, as I am only one of the many teachers that are dedicated to their profession. I cooperate with a large number of colleagues, with whom I exchange ideas and build methodology for a quality modern education.
5. You have been selected to be among the top 50 teachers in the world. Please explain in more detail what is this ranking about.
This is a worldwide competition organized by the Varkey Gems Foundation (www.varkeygemsfoundation.org). At this competition, out of thousands of applications from the innovative teachers, from more than 150 countries in the world, I was officially selected to be in the group of 50 best teachers in the world. (http://www.globalteacherprize.org/finalist/vese-vesela-bogdanovic.)
6. How did you find out about #TeacherPrize?
Every year on state and global level, Microsoft organizes a teachers’ competition. These competitions are constructive, teachers have an opportunity to show professionalism and innovation, to build mutual cooperation, frequently resulting in projects. In March this year, as a Microsoft expert for Macedonia, I have represented the country at the Global Form in Barcelona. Just before this event occurred, my colleague Marija Petreska, English language teacher from the primary school Hristo Uzunov, from the village Drugovo, sent me the link from this worldwide competition, which she accidently came across. She made me enroll and she even translated the application for me. I am really grateful that she believed in me, more then I believed in myself.
7. What was the pre-requirement to qualify and participate at this worldwide competition?
I needed to fill in an application, describing my current innovative work, to express my views on the questions related to my teaching and the professional teaching development on a global level, as well as to express my ideas on my vision for further education promotion. I also had to include the links from my educational resources – my web pages, the short educational movies, the worksheets, the teaching plans and the lectures preparations.
Just before the announcement of the results, I have submitted my CV, my employment certificate and the recommendations from the local educational experts.
8. Who decided on the selection from the thousands teachers enrolled to the competition? Was there any voting via the social media or was it organized differently?
The selection was made by the experts from the Varkey Gems Foundation’s Academy, that is organizing the competition. It consists of government experts, scientists, psychologists, pedagogy experts, engineers, as well as journalist from all over the world. The honorable chair of this foundation is Mr Bill Clinton, and its representatives are as important names in the educational and business sphere, as himself.
9. Is the public going to have a chance to vote for its favorite candidate?
No, the conditions for selecting the final winner remain the same, as up to now. Maybe this is best, for everybody.
So far, it has been an honor for me to be able to participate at this important competition. I have achieved great success with this enrollment. I was selected by the top professionals from several countries in the world, and this really means a lot to me.
I respect the social media and the power that they have, but for a small country like Macedonia, it is safer that the decision process is without the external opportunity to vote. You can imagine what would have been my chances, if my supporters from the country would have been put in a position to compete with the hundreds’ millions of votes from other competitors’ countries. This is more objective manner to define quality.
10. The price The Best Teacher in the World is more than tempting. It is one million US dollars. If you win, how would you like to spend it?
I rarely dare to dream about this high price, considering the extraordinary quality of my other 49 colleagues that also qualified for this competition. I am sincerely happy on this recognition.
It is my wish and vision to achieve more, for the good of the children in our country. This is something that I wish long time ago, not only at this moment when I have a chance to win the million dollar price.
My visions and wishes are the same as with the ones of the many parents that write to me on a daily basis, asking me where is the school located, where is the village, the classroom, where is that beautiful place, wandering whether I can enroll their children in my group, so that they learn in a more amusing manner, through exploring of the nature, with games and a combination of the latest technology, with new and old techniques and educational means.
My vision is to make the place where I work (with the eight pupils) grow into colorful, joyful, educational center, which will have classrooms in more locations, in the nature, throughout the country.
Many of my colleagues that I cooperate with would be guests – educators within this learning model, that has proven as productive and successful.
The wish to increase the scope of children’s activities, comes as an inspiration from my four years’ cooperation on the project Magic village in the Republic of Serbia (a project created by Zeljana Lukic Radokcic, the team of Creativa, supported by UNICEF and the Ministry of education and tourism of Serbia). Following the cooperation with the author of this project and her experiences up to now, I would like to create similar education centres in Macedonia, near the village Ivanjevci, in several other locations throughout the country.
11. How did your colleagues and your team reacted on this nomination, how was this accepted by the community where you live?
My colleague, the school team and the Director of the school Aneta Nikolovska, are large supporters of everything I have been doing in the last 12 years. We are of same opinion when nurturing the creative approach to work is in question, and we always work productively.
The parents from this school are also to be praised. I speak about 12 generations of parents, that are always willing to cooperate with me, for the good of their children.
I would like to extend my gratitude to Mr Stevo Pivkovski, Mayor of the Mogila Municipality. Ever since he took over this position, he personally have taken over activities to help me in the realization of the visits, trainings and other children educational activities, all for the purpose of enabling better engagement in the teaching (which has been a challenge for me). He encourages and respects my work, which is strong motivation, as the support from the closest environment is of extreme importance to me.