Denitsa Veselinova has worked in kindergarten №8 "Spring" in Montana for the last two years. The 24-year-old teacher is from a Roma background, has obtained a Master degree (with Honors) and enjoys the opportunity to work with children from her community. The kindergarten participates in the Springboard for School Readiness Project. Denitsa talks to Spaska Petrova from Association “New Road” about its effects, as well as other issues.
What motivated you to become a nursery teacher?
The profession of teaching children is a calling; the most important motivation is love for children. We must not forget the child within ourselves. The teacher here needs to have an imagination, to sing, to dance, to paint, to be an artist, be able to understand the child’s psychology. The kindergarten is a second home to the children. They spend the whole day here. This requires that we look for ever new approaches to help kids not only to memorize the information given to them, but to also rationalize it.
Children are the most pure and innocent creatures in a world filled with stress and difficulties. They fill me with energy and make me be better, encourage me to set ever higher goals for myself. When I am among them, my inner child wakes up and brings back to life memories of carefree and happy moments. Their shining eyes give me hope and the desire to discover the world and create wonderful things together.
Also, I have always considered that the teaching profession is one of the most important and responsible in society, because a teacher is a person who helps build the child’s character and view of life.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of early education for child development?
It is a known wisdom that the first seven years of life are the most important. Childhood is unique in its nature. No other period in human development is so emotionally and morally clean, with such potential for progress and development. This is a time during which the child’s potential is being developed. A child feels best among other children. In such an environment it feels most relaxed and free, and that is an important developmental factor. With the knowledge and skills accumulated in kindergarten, children learn to navigate human values and adapt to academic activities faster. I already mentioned the role of the teacher, but first the parents need to be motivated to ensure uninterrupted attendance in kindergarten. As well as this, in these early years it is vital to form correct Bulgarian speech since the children with us are entirely Roma. I know very well the nature of the Roma community, culture, holidays, traditions and customs, and it is my pleasure to be a teacher in this kindergarten. I have an opportunity to be a good example to the children, to encourage them to continue their education.
What initiatives does the “Springboard for School Readiness” project support in your kindergarten?
At the start of the project in the autumn of 2014, some of the children had never attended kindergarten. Over time, parents became convinced that we are working hard and providing greater opportunities for children to develop and prove their abilities. The opportunity offered by “Springboard for School” was amazing – for someone to pay the monthly attendance fees of the children, provide teaching materials and cover the mandatory initial medical examination. This had never happened before.
The kindergarten is not big, but our study halls are cozy and tidy. That allows kids to feel good. In the summer of 2015 our children took part in a very tough competition for children's drawings on the topic of school readiness. At the regional level in Byala Slatina our participants won first and second place. We also took a prize at the national level in Sofia. The trips organized around the competition, and the awards and gifts received brought a lot of excitement for all children. They have been the topic of many conversations, as have the memories of the games and entertainment the children had in the capital.
What direct results of the project do you see?
Integration and socialization of Roma children in society, and mastery of the spoken Bulgarian language is a big problem for them. Generally Roma are very talented, musical, flexible people. We started to organize events around different holidays, such as entertainments and concerts. Our goal was to create an environment that facilitates the children’s learning of the Bulgarian language, thereby helping the children learn to communicate, and to further develop the children’s talents and abilities through the process of studying dances, songs and rhymes. To be socially included, whatever their origin. They are children like the others, with equal rights and obligations. Over the past two years we have received full support from their families. Now we can talk about the results because the project participants – parents and children – talk about those results themselves. Children come to kindergarten "Spring" № 8 in Montana with willingness and interest, and parents are becoming responsible and making sure their kids attend regularly. We celebrate different holidays together. Now parents and kids gladly participate in the active kindergarten life.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing kindergarten teachers working with bilingual children?
Educators working with bilingual children should approach children with twice as much love and attention as their peers. Through teachers, children for the first time receive a new kind of care outside their family. In the kindergarten children begin their life path in a new environment, where they acquire the communication skills they need for the next step in life – school.
Teachers must love children and deliver the learning material in an accessible to the children language. They must inspire children’s curiosity and lead them to manifest their knowledge.
What is the greatest barrier to the regular attendance of children in your area?
Barriers are the lack of motivation of parents to bring their children to kindergarten regularly, an inability to pay the attendance fees and a lack of open places for everyone in the kindergartens.
Who can solve these problems and how?
The construction of our new home base in the district of Kosharnik is underway. We expect it to be completed in September 2017. Then we will have the opportunity to accommodate all children. A major problem both in Kosharnik and in our branch "Sun" in the village of Gabrovnitsa remains the affordability of fees. All our children are bilingual; their native tongue is Roma. The parents are mostly unemployed and on social welfare, and this explains their inability to cover the attendance fees.
Which personal achievement are you most proud of? What goals do you set for yourself?
I am proud that I am Roma and despite the difficulties this implies I managed to successfully complete my Masters in Pedagogy, obtaining an Honors degree. Now I have the opportunity to work with children of my origin – this is my dream come true. I set high goals in life for myself and take no greater joy than to give the children everything I have – knowledge, skills and guidance to develop as individuals and to prepare for the difficult road ahead called life.
“Over the past two years we have received full support from their families… Children come to us with willingness and interest, and parents are becoming responsible…”