The teacher who brought the children to school with games and supplies. Students run away from home to come to classes

Nicoleta Maria Gavrilă understood from the very first class in the school in a commune from Argesa that the only chance for the students to return to the banks is to buy them books, pencils and notebooks herself.

Nicoleta Maria Gavrilă is extremely attached to her students PHOTO personal archive

Nicoleta Maria Gavrilă, teacher at Primary School no. 1 Valea Mănăstirii from Țițești commune, Argeș county, won 1st place at the Rural Teacher of the Year Gala 2023, in the “Prevention of school dropout” category, because for 16 years it did what few teachers in Romania were willing to do to do: she bought supplies for the students with her money and thus convinced the little ones to return to school.

She knew since she was in kindergarten that she would become a teacher. “I wanted to become a doctor to help people. However, the teacher told me that I would become a teacher. I never believed that. I liked to take the reins in kindergarten and take care of my classmates. I used to do the same thing at home with the toys”, remembers Nicoleta Gavrilă for “Weekend Adevărul”.

He then realized that this is what he will do all his life because he loves teaching the little ones. The teacher declared that she felt a pain in her soul when she entered the classroom and saw empty desks: “Children love coming to school. If I tell them not to come tomorrow because the weekend starts, they wonder why I still can't come”, the teacher explains with emotion the attachment of her students to her.

It is enough to tell them that they are organizing an activity in the village for all the students to participate. Now he has 19 children in the class and 17 of them come permanently. If one of them can't make it to class one day, he does his homework at home and presents it to him the next day “lady”.

“I left the gym and cried”

Nicoleta Gavrilă had a shock when she came from Arad, where she taught for 15 years and had children of doctors, engineers and priests in her class. He remembers the first time he walked into the classroom at Valea Mănăstirii school and asked the students to take out their book and notebook, only to realize the next second that the little ones didn't even know what they looked like.

“They were laughing under the benches. They told me “we don't have notebooks”. I asked them to take out the pens and they continued: “we don't have any of these either”. I took a deep breath, I left the room and cried, I re-entered the classroom and told myself that there is another world. I have to change”, he tells with emotion.

The teacher buys the little ones everything they need to come to school PHOTO personal archive

The teacher buys the little ones everything they need to come to school PHOTO personal archive

The next day he bought notebooks, pencils and everything the little ones needed for the whole class and slowly brought them to school. “Parents don't have money; they have nowhere to go. I had a choice then between having them in the class or not and I decided to buy them all myself. I just asked the parents to let them come to school,” says the teacher.

Over the years, her work has become more and more visible, and now many people follow her on Facebook and admire what she does, and some help her in any way they can. The representative of a company donated a laptop, which he uses in class, a retired teacher gave him a small amount of money, with which he bought supplies for the students, and someone else brought him bookshelves.

Thanks to her involvement, Nicoleta obtained sponsorships from the “Lumină din suflet” foundation and the “Zâmbete Colorate” association, which equipped all the classrooms in the school where she teaches with magnetic boards and video projectors.

Run to school

The students have grown so fond of her that some of them run away from home, where their parents had left them to take care of their younger siblings, in order not to waste a single hour.

“I had a little girl who he used to jump out of the kitchen window to come to school“, the teacher tells. When he came to the village, the parents had a completely different mentality: they told their children not to go to school because it was of no use to them anyway.

Nicoleta Maria Gavrilă also involves parents in the educational act PHOTO personal archive

Nicoleta Maria Gavrilă also involves parents in the educational act PHOTO personal archive

He also changed this over time, proof that now, if he tells them to come to the meeting with the parents, at least three quarters are not absent. Moreover, they participate in the activities organized by the teacher and create hand-made objects with their children.

She is also a confidant and psychologist for her students, depending on the situation. If they want to tell her something, they all stay after class and tell what's on their minds, and she helps them overcome difficult moments.

Learning as play

There is no celebration in the village where the teacher does not participate with her students with songs, dances and poems. He also plays role-playing games with them whenever he teaches them something, and each child chooses what he wants to be: one chooses to be the storyteller, another a character from the reading, with the idea that each student gets into their shoes and has own understanding of them.

He will thus be able to express ideas and emotions with which he does not necessarily agree, but in this way he will experience a different perspective on how people react in different situations. By going through these stages, Nicoleta develops their healthy thinking and takes them out of their comfort zone, helping them to express emotions and thoughts that they would not otherwise express.

In addition, these games stimulate their imagination and help them think freely. The little ones thus have access to new creative ways of solving problems and will be better prepared to face the challenges of their daily reality.

The teacher also uses role-playing games with his students PHOTO personal archive

The teacher also uses role-playing games with his students PHOTO personal archive

Her hours are out of the ordinary. In the preparatory class, learning is done through play, but, in fact, the children learn concepts of mathematics and the Romanian language. Nicoleta thus makes the information easier to assimilate by the students and captures their attention for a long time.

The children could be playing all day, but the teacher is guiding them in the right direction without them realizing it, so that they easily integrate new information and knowledge.

He teaches in nature whenever he can, and the students learn to count with leaves and twigs and write in the sandbox. Nicoleta involves her students in all kinds of interesting activities.

For example, they created 100 little animals of Saint Andrew using elements from nature (sawdust and wheat), when tradition says that you have to put wheat on the sprout to have good luck and prosperity, which they gave to the villagers.

“I try to teach them that
we don't have to wait just to receive, but we have to give it to her. I want them to continue their studies, not drop out of school, be respectful and have the courage to fulfill their dreams”, are the wishes that Nicoleta has for her little students.