Ivana Kovacevic

'Dr Dragan Hercog', Belgrade, Serbia

Ivana  Kovacevic

Ivana’s mission is to make education available to all children, especially those who have challenging medical diagnoses and need to be schooled in hospital. Children in hospitals face many obstacles to their education, including lack of educational facilities or space, little time for teaching due to mandatory therapies and treatments, and lack of electronic educational assets or assistive technology. Some of her students have severe limitations in how they communicate, but Ivana has used a combination of technology, resourcefulness and her own ingenuity to help bridge the gap – with great results.

Ivana has been working in hospitals (hospital departments of neurology, psychiatry, nephrology, oncology, cerebral paralysis, and at centres for abandoned children), in students homes and via different platforms, she has been conducting distant learning with Serbian students who are abroad on treatments or who are unable to attend classes at their schools. She and her students study Serbian grammar, literature and art together, and she has found this combination of studies uniquely helpful in teaching students that have different learning needs. She has also worked with a web designer to create a website platform that allows her students to individually publish and discuss their creative works together, even when they may be in hospital or undergoing treatment. Students gather on Skype to chat, visit virtual exhibitions, and go on virtual trips as part of Ivana’s club. Children with different needs often have to work individually and can feel isolated as a result, but these tools have helped them feel a kind of community spirit, which has had a huge effect on their progress: since 2016, her students have won 79 awards in international and state literary competitions.

Ivana’s innovations in teaching practice have come directly from this experience. For example, when teaching dyslexic students, she noticed that one pupil had made pictorial notes about a poem and analysed the whole poem on the basis of the drawing. Ivana then realised that she could use illustrations in similar ways to build students’ capacity for writing exercises – a technique that was later presented to a university seminar at the Faculty of Philology. Students with motor limits sometimes cannot make progress in independent learning because they may lack the mechanical actions necessary for completing the required tasks, but Ivana has also made an effort to develop tools that solve this problem, with considerable success.

If she wins the Global Teacher Prize, Ivana would like to use the funds to open and develop educational centers for sick children, who often suffer from an inadequate level of support – first in Belgrade and then other places throughout Serbia.