Petya Ilievska, an English teacher in the language high school “Hristo Botev” in Kardzhali, passionately talks about translating her favorite books from English, in the times when she is not in the classroom. Her love for languages brought her to the teaching profession 22 years ago, although she never thought about being a teacher. “I somehow have always known I will become a teacher. It was never a conscious decision, but when I come to think of it, it was meant to be.”
Ilievska loves her job, although two years ago a class of eighth graders managed to make her consider an alternative profession. “It was more a disciplinary issue and when they get in that awful period of puberty. But the next year, they have changed and now it is running smoothly.”
She believes being a positive person helped her a lot in overcoming such moments. “If you don’t have faith, it kills creativity and enthusiasm. Students can smell that,” she says.
She cherishes her enthusiasm by learning as much from her students, as she is teaching them.
She considers the most rewarding part of teaching is being a role model for her students. Suzan Vasvieva, who graduated in 2013 and was Ilievska’s student often remembers her favorite teacher and the times they had together. Earlier this year, Vasvieva wrote to Ilievska: “You may well be one of the most influential people in my life. A big part of who I am today I owe to you. Thank you for your patience not only in teaching, but in showing us how to be better human beings.”
Even though students appreciate her efforts, parents are often times indifferent about their children’s education.“The system works against you, the parents work against you. We do not feel supported by them,” she says. Ilievska has observed that while some parents live and work abroad, others are simply overwhelmed with life and do not have power to deal with teenagers. Ilievska also sees an issue when parents transfer their careless attitude to their children.
She believes that education should become an actual priority for both parents and the government. “I would […] change everything from ground zero upwards. Right now, we are teaching students with methods used and invented in the 50s’,” she says with bitterness.
Even with administrative difficulties, Ilievska takes her job very personally and has a hard time saying goodbye to every graduating class. “With my first class it was the hardest. I thought that’s the end of it. How am I going to live without them?,” she remembers.
She realized things are not as bad as they seem, because she still spends time with her former students in a more informal atmosphere. “It’s not the end, it’s the beginning. Its okay, because I know that with the ones that touched me and whom I really touched, we will keep in touch.”