Interview with Ana María Stelman, the Argentine teacher nominated for the "Nobel of Education"

“Ana María, note that you do strange things,” her companions told Ana María Stelman, the teacher from La Plata who is among the ten finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2021 awarded by the Varkey Foundation in collaboration with Unesco. “I try to make (the students) wonder, question, that generate critical thinking that is the tool that can help them work better because it serves them for a lifetime “, he claimed.

Stelman arrived at Primary No. 7 in the Hipódromo de La Plata neighborhood in 2019. “I saw horses in the street that came and went all the time. So I linked up with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the Hippodrome and I created a project called ‘Why are there so many horses in my neighborhood?’ “, he told Page | 12. The objective in the first instance was to improve the relationships between the students of the course.

“There were violent situations and that was what was worked on with the horses: personal space, respect and care for the other.. From there, a lot of other projects arose, ”he added. We made eco-fertilizer from Californian red worm; we work on cartography contents and we present ourselves to the contest of the National Geographic Institute from the registry of the stud of the neighborhood; we presented ourselves at the Science Fair with a project on the care of living beings ”.

Horses, reading and ecology

One of his students, “a little older than the rest of the course,” had difficulty learning to read and write. “It seemed impossible to him,” Stelman described. But the boy lived in a stud -the stables where the racehorses are cared- and he could share his knowledge about animals with his peers. “From feeling empowered, from feeling that he was the one who knew and not the one who did not know, he ended up learning to read. The horses went through the whole year, but they were a trigger to work in the classroom ”, said the teacher.

The students also made a museum with elements related to equestrianism: horseshoes, shavings, whips. According to Stelman, this allowed them to learn about “the circuit of waste and the green belt of La Plata compared to the production of vegetables.”

Education in a pandemic

But in 2020 The pandemic arrived and the project for animal-assisted interventions in primary school was put on hold. Of the entire grade, only one student had a computer and the rest had a cell phone with WhatsApp that, in many cases, they had to share with other family members and with poor connectivity.

“I called them every day, I gave them space so they could talk in addition to class, I adapted the schedules as much as I could because some families had only one device that just arrived home at nightSo it started maybe at six in the afternoon and I don’t know when it ended. It is nothing different than what other teachers did in the pandemic. The challenge is about giving the best to the boys so that they can learn ”, he assured.

The horses came to the rescue of the course once more: ehe team from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine adapted the space in which the previous projects worked so that the students could connect with the school. “It was an open-air space, close to the houses and we were the only school in the city that could have face-to-face classes,” Stelman said. I went with the school librarian and we created a space with books, where they could read stories, write, propose an exchange. That served as a shock in the week that allowed us to continue working. “

The trajectory of Ana María Stelman

Although working with horses is his latest project, Stelman is nominated for the Global Teacher Prize for her career. Before reaching Primary No. 7, the teacher worked on meteorology initiatives in other schools, linked up with her peers from other provinces, brought science professionals to the classroom and even made a film by Dailan Kifki, the book by María Elena Walsh, with third grade students.

“I am very excited to see how the boys progress. They are details, but I am happy to see how they learn, how they get excited, the sparkle in their eyes. I try to make them find happiness from discovering what they like to do and following it, “he said.

Stelman, who is already honored to have come to this instance among more than 8 thousand teachers who applied, said that “he is representing all” his colleagues, even those he does not know.

When will the winner of the Global Teacher Prize be known?

The winner of the 7th edition of the Global Teacher Prize will be revealed next November 10 through a virtual ceremony that will take place at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The award recognizes “the outstanding contribution to the profession of the most outstanding teacher of the year and to underline the importance of their role in society” and rewards the teacher with a million dollars.

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