Over the last decade, Mirela has built a reputation as an innovative teacher by integrating technology into ordinary lessons with an unprecedented degree of creativity. Specifically, a major part of her success has been in incorporating video games like Minecraft and Fortnite – the games her students are most interested in – into a wide variety of subjects. She has even shown how science can illuminate ideas in literature by asking students to create sequences from books wholly within Minecraft. For Mirela, the emotional component of teaching – and the motivation of students – is just as important as the academic component.
Although this approach has met with some resistance from school systems, it has worked wonders with students from a variety of backgrounds disadvantaged students, overseas students, and those from single-parent families or with parents working abroad. It has also proven its value through Mirela’s students’ excellent exam performances. In one year, 18 per cent of students achieved grade 10 marks, and a further half of students achieved grades between 9 and 10 – a performance that won her the Excellence Award from the Ministry of Education’s School Inspectorate. Many of her former students have now studied at a number of top universities in the US, the UK and Romania, and gone on to become football coaches, chemists, journalists and veterinarians.
Mirela has also worked hard to help other teachers learn from her own teaching practice. In her view, the teacher is a facilitator – a person who provokes, empowers, elevates, and helps the student discover themselves. In 2018, she began to hold training courses to teach her colleagues the best ways to use technology in lessons. Her ACCED course, which won an award from the Ministry of Education, was then adapted to the needs of pandemic teachers under the title of “New Normal”.
Mirela has also received a great deal of wider attention for her innovations. She has been covered by the Romanian media and the top educational websites in the country, as well as receiving the World Book of Records STAR Global Teacher Award in 2020. She has been invited to the Cotroceni Palace to meet the President of Romania, and to the United Nations Data Forum in Dubai, where she presented her class’s work to UN Under-Secretary-General Amina Mohamed. Mirela also serves as an Ambassador for the Looking@2020 Project – created in collaboration with TeachSDGs – and has been a TeachSDGs Ambassador since 2018.
If she wins the Global Teacher Prize, Mirela will follow the example of last year’s winner, Ranjitsinh Disale, by giving some of the prize funds to other educators – half the funds would be used to help Romanian educators improve their teaching practice through training courses and educational camps.