Tatiana Popa

Tatiana is the Head of Global Education and an English teacher at Heritage International School. She has been in teaching since 2007. She has a Masters degree in English Philology.

Tatiana is an eTwinning Ambassador since 2015 and an awarded eTwinner. She has a wide experience in collaboration projects, in creating tutorials and delivering webinars for teachers.

Recently she has been involved in creating educational podcasts for More Teacher Talk with Carl McCarthy in the UK, under the series Back to Global, where various international educators share their views and ideas on past and future of education.

Follow Tatiana on Twitter – @Tatianapopab

Since my early days in teaching, I was convinced that an English teacher should offer students exposure to authentic situations when English changes from a foreign language to a means of communication where the mother tongue would not be able to help. I wanted to connect them to the wider world!

For Moldova, a small country in eastern Europe, which was not part of EU, that seemed a difficult task, but not impossible. I was looking for a safe place online for teachers and students. The first educator community that came to meet my urge for connection was Skype Classroom. I managed to get my students to speak with peers in Germany and later in Wales. I don’t think I can express my students’ excitement through words – that was what they called a ‘real-life English lesson’ and I am sure they still remember those first attempts and how they were dreaming of a possible exchange, to host German students in their homes and go for a return visit. The exchange never happened, but the lessons had an impact on each of them. The video conferences with the Welsh students were warm and lively, both parties feeling confident to tell personal stories, to discuss global issues and to share their national values and pride.

eTwinning in Moldova

The official launch of eTwinning in Moldova in 2013 became a turning point in my teaching career because it brought so many opportunities for getting connected with other classrooms across Europe and also free quality professional development for educators. I got inspired by the online course moderators and educators I worked within various eTwinning projects. I ask myself many times what my teaching would have been without eTwinning, or if I had stayed in teaching at all without these global connections…

Starting 2013, with minor limitations, as Moldova was an eTwinning Plus country, Moldovan teachers commenced to get into the whirlpool of class-to-class projects, the pan-European outreach of eTwinning gaining a place in the hearts of teachers here.

I was the first Moldovan educator to register on the platform, as a Romanian teacher first, back in 2013 (as Moldova was not in the drop-down list and eTwinning was not yet officially launched here), then transferred to my Moldovan team. That year my students got a taste of global connections more, and the following years allowed them to explore various topics in my English classes, but also to collaborate with young people in Europe, to make friends and practise speaking English in a safe learning environment.

In 2015 I became an eTwinning ambassador, and my ties with the European community of educators got closer, as we work on various products and meet with other ambassadors for sharing experience. But, of course, the main beneficiaries are our students – they get the chance to participate in life-changing projects.

In 2018, I was lucky to discover and be accepted to work in a project entitled “Heritage Matters” with other 7 eTwinning ambassadors in Europe, and our students could do research on their national heritage, in order to create a common online magazine about famous national heroes and then all teams played a Kahoot game on the information about all heroes. Also, students read letters from ‘Anne Frank Diary’ and wrote replies to Anne.

Finally, we created a Google site where we posted the articles in all the categories – books and writers, gastronomy, national costumes, famous monuments, singers, sports people, and artists. The project was highly appreciated and in 2019 it was awarded the eTwinning European Prize in a special category –the Yunus Emre Prize for Humanism and Intercultural Dialogue.

In March 2020, when the lockdown in Moldova started, we received the news that Heritage International School was awarded the eTwinning School title 2020-2021 for all the hard work we did in global projects. All the active eTwinners in our school felt so proud to have contributed to this success!

Global Collaboration

Besides eTwinning, I involved my students in a collaborative project with North Carolina, USA. This was part of the Partnership for Peace project between Moldova and the United States, a collaboration taking more than 20 years now, and my Heritage students had the chance to talk to their American counterparts and get a glimpse of American student life, daily habits and teenage interests across the Atlantic. A wonderful civilisation lesson about the American way of life!

Another activity in the project was the celebration of Thanksgiving. My students sent a congratulations video to their partners, and as a reply we received a video in which the American students were cooking traditional Thanksgiving food! They received Christmas gifts from US, and we sent back a parcel with Mărțișors. The Mărțișor is the symbol of spring in Moldova (but also Romania), which represents a woven white and red thread, worn as a symbol of friendship, love and goodwill.

Guess what we received back? A video. It was a video of our American friends making Mărțișors themselves and giving them to their beloved teachers. I was bursting with pride to see those children showing such respect towards our national values and traditions! Our project will continue and I am very grateful to my project partner in the USA, Colina Bartlett, for the wonderful work we’ve done together!

Global collaboration is the best way to make our students aware of the global issues we have nowadays and to involve them actively in finding the right solutions. The international projects allowed my students to study the SDGs together with other students, to participate in flashmobs, to collect donations, to do good deeds and even to tell the US Ambassador Derek Hogan, when he visited my classroom in winter on an official visit, about the SDGs and the great things we do in collaboration with the world!

Founders’ Lecture programme

We have a Founders’ Lecture programme at Heritage International School, with various people from outside coming to speak and inspire our students – parents, friends of the school, people we collaborate with and even former students. As we started them face-to-face in September, with Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy, Mr. Gary Davies, and a group of brilliant Chevening scholars speaking in our library before their departure to the UK to continue their studies, we had to close this 10-lecture series in May with a former student of mine, Cristina Lupusor, who works at Google Inc. in Poland and was caught in the lockdown in London at the time. Not a difficult task to make students familiar with the world and its opportunities if we have great minds to connect with!

Bringing the world into the classroom

Another important factor in bringing the world into my classroom is the use of social media to share classroom activities and to connect with others. I would praise Twitter in this respect, for helping me build a great professional learning network, to learn and to connect with teachers and students around the world. The power of Twitter is undeniable – you follow people and read the information you are interested in, at the same time it opens doors to new possibilities for your students.

For instance, at the end of May we connected with two youth organisations in Wales: our students created messages of solidarity for a youth organisation named URDD – a tradition kept for 98 years to gather messages of peace and solidarity from young people worldwide, and later we had a video conference with another youth organisation called CWVYS to discuss about their activity for young people, as well as to learn about traditions, symbols and languages.

Later that week we celebrated the International Day and my class chose Japan as their country, so I found a teacher on Skype Classroom and we connected on Twitter and then our students had a wonderful Google Meet discussion about Japanese culture, traditions, anime as well as teenage life. That was the best way to celebrate Japan in all its beauty!

Google classroom

Educators are the ones that ‘carry the flame’, as the wise Les Jones in Wales said. That’s why I am so much looking forward to implementing the Climate Action Project in my school in October and I can’t wait to see my students making a difference in the world!

Tatiana will be sharing her expertise on online learning in this month's conference. Register your attendance here.