Elementary school teacher Ana Maria Stelman from La Plata, Argentina, grew up with the smell of ink from her grandparents’ printing press, learned to care for and love books, and wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. Today, using empathy, listening and understanding she tells her students anecdotes from her childhood and tries to transmit her values, spread the desire to grow and to value the family, involving them in the education of their children. Her students grow up in an area where they are economically, culturally and socially vulnerable.
But Ana Maria uses innovation and creativity to show them the wonders of the world beyond, including setting up a video call between one of her students and their father wintering at a base in Argentine Antarctica, leading to exchange projects, research, planetarium visits and using WhatsApp groups to communicate. She has used Google maps and a selection of photography to connect her students with another school in Jujuy province Argentina, 1,677 km away from La Plata, so they can compare notes on local resources and environments. And for writing and research projects she has worked with a Veterinary Faculty member to show her students how horses are part of the environment and how their manure, worms and other elements contribute to both the environment and economy.
Ana Maria uses digital tools adapted to children with different abilities, encourages local schools to take part in elections to demonstrate legislative techniques, runs workshops and courses on environmental education and astronomy. She has led her students to take part in geography and science fairs, as well as running training workshops for other teachers and featuring on TV and radio to show her various school projects.
During the pandemic lockdown Ana Maria was in charge of language and natural sciences in the third year for her school, with groups of 37 boys and girls aged between 8 and 13, 19 of whom had literacy difficulties compounded by no schooling, age lag, chronic absenteeism, and very complex family situations. There was little available technology for them at home and government provided printed booklets where impossible for her students to complete. So she produced personalized booklets, adapted to the characteristics of each student, visiting their homes to work with them, before being able to hold face-to-face meetings towards the end of the year which helped with the reengagement of students, with good emotional responses from both students and their families, who got involved in the project and responded to the call, with very satisfactory results.