Sandra Grujevska is an English teacher from North Macedonia. She earned her Masters of International Relations at the American College of Skopje. She is the founder of “STEP BY STEP”, Private Language Center in Skopje. Teacher, translator, soft skills coach and human rights trainer, certified by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Sandra is the creator of the school project “Human Rights in Every Classroom”. In addition, it provides training for teachers and children in the context of experiential learning and a holistic approach to learning. She is a lecturer and spokesman at various national and international conferences on the methodology of foreign language learning. One of her most notable is Innovate Elt, an Oxford conference in Barcelona, where she was a lecturer and presented her “Story of My Entrepreneurial Life”. Creator of the Handbook for Human Rights in Every Segment of Education. Sandra also performs the function of MAQS inspector for monitoring and evaluating courses in private schools. She is a proud awardee of the title “Best Teacher of former Yugoslavia”, an active administrator of the greatest Facebook group Balkan Teachers Network and devoted International Relations Manager in the regional education platform EduBalkan.
Step1- If You Really Love It, You Can Do It!
From being a schoolteacher to opening a Private Language School and now InternationalRelations Manager of the regional education platform EduBalkan, I travelled a long and diverse professional journey. My story of ambition and true zeal to follow the heart led me to my Step by Step motto -Small Beginnings, Big Dreams. After some years of spending time imparting knowledge, I was a little bored with the monotonous life in the state school system. I wanted to have more freedom regarding teaching methodology, relationships with the students so needed to take up something challenging. My outgoing personality, intuition, love to my profession and the will to do something new, led me to quit the job I had and start my own concept of school. It was a risk; it was a hard and painful path, but I knew I am doing the right thing. I just needed to take out all I had as a vision of learning and teaching.
I say, “You learn the best when you start asking questions, not to teachers, not to parents, but to yourself.” The other pillar of my approach involves getting students to take on the primary responsibility for their learning by taking the pressure off, making the concepts attractive, and getting them excited about learning. Entrepreneurs frequently must make tough decisions in a rapid manner. As teachers are born problem solvers, I solved my inner struggle thinking outside the box, becoming one of those leaders who are creating new ways to pass their knowledge onto students and to craft products that will fill an empty void in the marketplace. So, the story to be more adventurous I decided to take up the plunge and create a multi-ethnic school in the most diverse municipality in our country. I started up a school as an entrepreneur from Macedonian ethnicity where most of the students are belonging to the Albanian ethnical group, and others are Bosnians, Roma and etc. So, one can imagine how challenging was this blending together different ethnicities, languages and religions in one classroom. There were many doubts from the locals and others, as well.
Step 2- Living the dream!
Being an English teacher offers great opportunities for creating a multicultural atmosphere, breaking prejudices and stereotypes. I never wanted to be a teacher who is just going to teach, do its job and leave the classroom. I wanted to feel the personality with my students, to build the connection and learn from them as much as I can. I wanted us to get to know each other as much as possible, so that was the reason from day to day, year to year I tried to succeed in not just being a regular teacher, but the teacher who is here to travel together with her students. It did not matter if it was just imaginatively as part of the curriculum by some text and experiences or virtually through the Internet tools. But we travelled and lived our journey. What I strived for every day was to be part of intercultural and international projects.
I tried to be part of every training course, every seminar and conference that provided professional development. It was the winning formula of networking with lots of other teachers, educators and experts who delivered proposals for multicultural projects and connections. I, as a teacher and manager, thrived always to be part of many projects where students can learn a lot more than just texts and tenses, but interpersonal relationships, other cultures and get to know closer other religions. One of the projects I am especially proud where I was actively involved as International Coordinator—the Magical Intercultural Friendship Network—which creator is Željana Radojičić Lukić, an international project with more than 10 thousand participants from 400 schools and 35 countries. Ten thousand students from all over the world, with the help of more than 1000 teachers from 400 schools, were working for 9 weeks on achieving the following goals: meeting peers from other countries through establishing communication, empowering students in realizing the similarities and differences between people in the world; getting to know the elements of other languages, symbols, traditions, culture, sport, cuisine, art. What I am most proud of is that we broke the stereotypes like “Serbians don’t like Albanians” or “Croatian people hate Serbian people” or “Macedonian people are underprivileged by all other Balkan people”.
We organized a two-day event-Module 3 in Arangjelovac, Serbia, where students from all Balkan were socializing and getting to know each other. They ate at the same table, drank the same drinks and played together manifesting that we are all the same but just living in different places. Students said it was incredible and unforgettable. After this project, great news was to arrive. I was awarded, as an international coordinator who established networking with a great base of other countries, to be part of the study visit to India, as they were one of the partner countries. Another experience regarding breaking prejudices, which enlightened my visit to India and their educational institutions, where I could not believe how different life we lead, but, in fact, how same we are. I would never forget being a visiting professor there, maybe it was for just one day, but it meant the whole life to me. We are still connecting our classroom with the Indian students and my students, by the ZOOM platform or sending each other postcards.
Step 3- Networking with Teachers is a Fruitful Investment
I believe that attending seminars, training courses and conferences is the best investment if you truly love our job. I am living proof that by applying to deliver a speech on a conference and meeting people there, nominating me for the prestigious award “Best Teacher od EX –YU” by the Association of Best Teachers of Former Yugoslavia, opened up my way to meet many enthusiasts like me and form a group of tireless teachers who are constantly working on new challenges in the name of better education. I am convinced it is a never-ending dream for the appropriate education system.
Because it was the medicine that helped us overcome the pandemic, the COVID-19 virus.
By forming a Facebook group which would connect all teachers who are struggling with the new situation and managing to handle the online issues. In just three days, the Facebook group “Balkan Teachers Network during Pandemic” turned out to be the biggest group for sharing tools, digitals materials and experiences regarding online learning. Media could not get enough informing about this good outcome of all the pandemic issues. I was so glad I could help by being an administrator for the English language subject and helping many teachers to survive the COVID-19 Hurricane. What makes me extremely glad is another project that came out of the COVID-19 environment and the Balkan Teachers Network-Balkan ZOOM Teachers Café- an online conference where we managed to entertain, and in the same time learn new moments on how to be better educators in the pandemic atmosphere. I am so proud to be hosting this ZOOM café every Wednesday where I can see how much we teachers can help each other.
Step 4- Internationally Recognized
Balkan Teachers Network soon became quite recognized and started acting globally. So, it became, EduBalkan, an education regional platform, where experts and teachers from all Balkan countries were involved to reset the education and act internationally. EduBalkan was invited to be the partner by many organizations, among which is the T4 Education and Our World. We, as network administrators, became connectors, ambassadors and delegates to the biggest global online conference for education. We were the leaders of the Western Balkans and the link of this global event. We were active on all social media and translated the event in all Balkan languages, so all the teachers are able to understand the The New Normal. All of this in order to promote and confirm global online education between 70 countries and more than 5000 participants. In addition, I would give my respect to the AKS, Alert Knowledge from India, whose is an internationally known organization honouring me to be their Event Host of the biggest Online Summit for Awarded Teachers. I am grateful that COVID-19 has brought us teachers and students together, to be more aware that teaching is more than just educating and learning but transforming and transmitting. Being able to bring the world in your classroom is the best accomplishment for you and your students. So, we are continuing to keep up the good work and make the world a better place for living!