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Promoting a 21st Century Education in Ukraine

Level Up Village recently began working with Zalishchyky State Gimnasia in Ukraine and has learned what that experience has been like from the perspective of American Peace Corps volunteer Todd Gable, who is teaching English at the school and will return home to the U.S. in May of 2018 after completing 27 months of service.

By Todd Gable

In March of 2016, I departed for Ukraine, and after three months of intense culture and language training, I received my  site placement in the small town of Zalishchyky, Ternopilska Oblast. I was assigned to Zalishchyky State Gimnasia which is a specialized Middle School and High School that ranks among the top schools in Ukraine due its uncommon access to resources and passionate teachers.

My primary role in the school is to serve as an expert English Language Teacher. In recent years, Peace Corps has required team teaching in all its “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” (TEFL) posts globally. I team teach with five Ukrainian Counterparts, and together, we work to plan and implement quality lessons.  My second role is as a Regional Methodologist. I conduct methodological trainings and seminars for teachers of English on a monthly basis. My third role is to create and implement projects for our school and community. Level Up Village (LUV) has become one of many projects.

3D Printing in Demand

During my first few months in Zalishchyky, I conducted a needs assessment and discovered that an overwhelming amount of students were requesting access to a 3D printer. However, it wasn’t until I found Level Up Village’s unique and exciting program that I could make that dream a reality. Students and faculty wanted to introduce 3D printing technology to promote 21st century education in the classroom since 3D printing and CAD skills require students to approach learning in a new way. In Ukraine, the Soviet approach to education, which I call the “Soviet Shove” is very much present. In contrast, the type of experiential learning experience provided by Level Up Village (LUV) helps to show teachers that learning can happen in a variety of student-centered contexts and the response has been very positive.

“After receiving the 3-D printer, our students have now begun to use this technology in cooperation with their math and science courses. This has allowed them to print designs that they can use in their courses to see the material literally come to life,” said Teacher Iryna Luchyn.

“I really enjoyed creating this 3D model because it allowed me to create something in the way I wanted it to look. It was challenging because it was something new for us and something we never did before,” said Andriiana, one of the students in the class.

“I had heard about 3D printing, but I was amazed at how it actually works. I said ‘Wow! Cool!’” said Andriy, another student.

Communication Skills at the Forefront

The Level Up Village course also included opportunities to collaborate on their designs and exchange video messages with their partners in the United States – a brand-new experience for the students.

“When my students first started the course, they didn’t know what to think about their U.S. partner. Some students even dreaded making videos. But after their first video exchange, their nerves really calmed and they were excited to learn something new about the U.S. and to share something about their home in Ukraine,” said Teacher Maria Savchynska.

“At first I thought it would be very boring to make these videos, but after I saw my partner’s video and started getting questions from him about my life I became really excited. My partner asked me about Halloween in my country and because we don’t really celebrate Halloween here, this was something interesting to share,” said Andriiana.

“I thought that everything in America is ideal, but now I understand that every country has its problems. My partner student is showing their school life and all the myths about school in America are true. They have lockers in the hall!” said Andriy.

LUV has also provided our students with the ability to improve their English skills through this unique partnership with their American counterparts.

“It’s very exciting because it helps to improve our English. It’s also really cool to speak with someone from a different country because we can share interesting things about our countries and cultures,” said Andriiana.

Developing Global Citizenship

Under the direction of school head Oleksandra Voychyshyn, Zalishchyky State Gimnasia is a Microsoft Showcase School that participates in a wide variety of activities such as “e-Twinning,” “Mystery Skype” and “People to People International.” I am fortunate enough to be a teacher in a school community that has cultivated a history of participating and supporting projects like these, and now Level Up Village, that help our students and teachers to engage in the global community.

My hope is that by engaging in STEAM skills and global citizenship, our students and our school can further their engagement in 21st century skills that will enable them to be better participants in the global community.

See this recent news article about Zalishchyky State Gimnasia’s Level Up Village programs.