Belarusian Math Teacher Makes STEM Breakthrough

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Belarusian Math Teacher Makes STEM Breakthrough
Iryna Adamovich, USAID Community Connections exchange program alumna, during her visit to the American STEM-school (in the middle)

Iryna Adamovich, coordinator of an extracurricular Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) School and a math teacher in Barysau is a Belarusian educator who promotes creative engineering and best practices in STEM education, incorporating them into her school’s curriculum to ensure a bright future for Belarusian youth.

In recent years, Belarus’ increasingly developed IT sector has created a strong demand for engineering and other highly-skilled specialists to meet the needs of local, regional, and international companies. A STEM-oriented approach – one that cultivates critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving, and decision making – is critical to helping Belarusian youth meet this demand.

Iryna says it was her participation in the USAID Community Connections exchange program (ComCon) in 2018 that provided the inspiration for her – and now her students’ – STEM breakthrough.

"First the breakthrough occurred in my mind. I reconsidered myself as a math teacher as I learned about American methods of the educational process in schools," Iryna Adamovich said.  Iryna was also very impressed with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – interdisciplinary standards that focus on the interaction of science, practice, and intersubject collaboration. She started by changing her way of teaching mathematics by focusing more on conscious learning, practice, science, and research. After realizing the improvement in the quality of her teaching, she applied the same principles to the rest of the school curriculum.

"Thanks to this new approach, children have become more conscious of their studies, they show interest in my class, and they become more successful, and, therefore, happier," thinks Iryna.

As head of an extracurricular STEM School which brings togethers 12 teachers and 305 students, Iryna adapted the work of STEM schools that she had visited in the United States to the Belarusian context. Like in many American schools, she initiated a Maker Space: a specially equipped area, which is open for students any time they need it for work on their projects. The new lab for 3D modeling and prototyping was launched in Barysau secondary school #20.

Iryna admits that before participation in the program she never took into account the number of girls in STEM fields. After the program, the number of girls participating in the STEM School increased from 40 to 95. In 2019, Uzhefa Victorskaya, a female STEM School student, won first prize at the "Path to the Future" robotics competition for Belarusian school children held by the Minsk Regional Institute for Education Development, competed against more than 100 male participants. 

Iryna Adamovich continues to promote STEM education in Belarus via initiatives at her schools as well as cooperation with universities and IT and engineering companies. Iryna and her team initiated and designed the "Teachers for Teachers" course to engage more Belarusian educators in a STEM approach. In August 2020, Iryna and her team held an online motivational training course "From the Idea to the Project" that reached 150 Belarusian teachers, who have to date developed nearly 40 STEM-related projects.

USAID’s ComCon exchange program broadens the horizons of not only participants, but also those in their professional and personal circles, as well as future generations. Since USAID started the program in 2006, over 700 Belarusian professionals have participated and learned from American best practices and culture. ComCon empowers 60 participants a year to adapt lessons in leadership and entrepreneurship to tackle social and economic development challenges in Belarus.