An added benefit to my work at the Center for Education Innovations (CEI) are the little vignettes I get to see from our relationships with committed educators around the world. This World Teachers' Day, it is important to remember that teachers are not just inputs, and not some monolithic group. They are passionate individuals using kindness and skill to move our world forward one student at a time.
Teach For India (TFI) is a non‐profit organization that aims to eliminate educational inequity in India by enlisting the nation's most promising college graduates and young professionals to serve as full‐time teachers in low-income schools for 2 or more years. TFI alumni represent a broad coalition of citizens committed to educational reform. Seema Kamble is one such alumnus, who graduated from Teach For India’s intense two year program but now still teaches kindergarten students in Cuffe Parade, in southern Mumbai. Her time with TFI gave her firsthand experience with the importance of community and parental engagement, lessons that served her well when she transitioned to a new school in Mumbai.
“We really had to understand the mindset of the community and change their thoughts about municipal schools and get them to trust us. Initially, the parents couldn't understand what we did at school and our methodologies, so for the fist parent meeting, we actually showed them pictures and explained everything we did. Now they’re very happy and supportive.”
Another program we have profiled on CEI is the Training and Resources in Early Education (TREE) program. TREE offers training and capacity building services to Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners in low income communities in South Africa. Many Tree trainings identify disadvantaged South African women and train them into skilled champions for ECD. Noxolo Dlamini (pictured left) joined one of these trainings in 2009, and soon after began plans to found her own ECD center. After being awarded a bursary from the TREE program, Dlamini is studying for her NQF 4 ECD Qualification, has received a plot of land for her new center, and currently has 22 children attending her service daily.
Across the globe in Chile, Elige Educar is a program aiming to improve the quality of Chile’s teachers through influencing public policy, attracting top students to enter the profession, and launching national media campaigns to enhance the societal perception of teaching. Attracting high-level talent to the low-performing schools that need it the most is a worldwide challenge for education, but Elige Educar has achieved progress through innovative collaboration with the Chilean government and a targeted focus on pursuing the best and brightest for teaching careers. One recent program participant, Veronica Ponce spoke about her desire to teach as coming from a desire to initiate change in someone’s life. “I will leave my mark” she explains, “As a teacher did with me, because I was inspired by that teacher to follow this path”.
There are immense challenges facing the world’s girls and boys as they pursue better lives through education. For many, the excitement of the United Nations’ adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals last month has already turned to skepticism that each goal will actually be achieved. These doubts are justified, and must be addressed if the targets for 2030 are to be met. But for today at least, I will forego thoughts about future challenges and instead take heart in the stories of teachers like Seema, Noxolo, and Veronica. Knowing that they are working everyday to reach young minds gives me great hope, and I hope you’ll join me in wishing teachers like them all over the world a happy World Teachers’ Day, 2015.
Photo Credits (Top to Bottom): GPE/Jawad Jalali, Teach for India, Training and Resources in Early Education (TREE), Elige Educar
Duncan McCullough is a Communications Associate at the Center for Education Innovations, proud Masters graduate of George Mason University, and former White House Staffer.