I’ve been teaching biology at Nazarbayev Intellectual School (NIS) in Aktobe, western Kazakhstan, for almost three years. The school is run on a trilingual educational model, so subjects are studied in three languages: Kazakh, Russian and English. There are more than 20 Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools in Kazakhstan.
My day begins at 6am with a bowl of kasha, which is similar to porridge. I take two buses to get to school, arriving just before 8am. We have about 750 students in grades 7-12 (aged 12-17), who start their day with 10 minutes of dance, followed by breakfast.
Lessons end at 5pm and, unless there is a report to write or a project to finish, I leave at 7pm. We have a very busy timetable and classes take place from Monday to Saturday. But on Saturdays I finish at 5pm and can relax.
My teaching day is split into 40-minute double lessons. I deliver half the lesson in Kazakh and Joanne Brown from Northern Ireland teaches the other half in English. Each class has 12 pupils, and I teach grades 7, 9 and 10.
Our classrooms are modern and well equipped, with smartboards and electronic recording devices. And NIS encourages pupils to take part in international competitions; earlier this year, one of my students won a French competition with a project analysing data on the disease brucellosis in cattle.
Critical thinking is an integral part of each lesson. Students also participate in a range of extracurricular activities that promote international awareness and citizenship, including foreign travel for the purposes of academic study and language development.
In January, I joined seven of my fellow teachers to supervise 70 students on a two-week science discovery camp in Malaysia. Pupils took part in various projects: building robotics; testing to determine their blood type; visiting a tropical forest; taking a trip to a zoo and the surrounding countryside. It was an exciting experience for them and for me – I had never travelled outside Kazakhstan before or been on an aeroplane. The food was amazing: a little too spicy, but the flavours were incredible.
This year, I was entered for the NIS teacher of the year contest. I had to be observed by senior management, display my teaching portfolio, speak publicly and be interviewed by pupils. To my astonishment and delight, I was placed second out of the 130 teachers in the school.
It’s a great honour to be a teacher and every day I strive to become better at it. I set the highest expectations for my students – but I set even higher goals for myself.
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