Playtech’s Scholarship Grantee: Studying and Practicing Teaching at the Same Time Provides a Great Advantage

22 May 2020
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"The program helps people with previous pedagogical education or some work experience to re-join the ranks of active teachers."

As Estonia is facing a serious shortage of teachers, it is our mission to support university students training to become teachers as well as working teachers and mentors within our Community Investments Program. To alleviate the lack of math teachers in Estonia and support teacher training students to become ones, Playtech Estonia is proud to be a sponsor of the program “Kogenud kooli” initiated by University of Tartu’s Institute of Education to train new math teachers for schools. The program helps people with pedagogical education or some teaching experience to re-join the ranks of active teachers by providing them the opportunity to obtain a professional teaching degree while already working as a teacher. In October 2019, Ivo Lasn, Director of Playtech Estonia, handed over the donation voucher to two of the grantees who are supported with a scholarship each month during their first year within the program.

One of the grantees, Annika Koitmäe-Pihl is doing her MA degree in Teacher Education at the University of Tartu to become a professional math teacher and at the same time teaching math at Rapla Middle School. In this experience story, she is sharing how her life has changed since she joined the program. 

Annika teaching math at Rapla Middle School

My decision to become a math teacher was born overnight. The main reason behind it lied in my wish to work within my own community and be close to my family. I remember being at home in January 2019 with my 4-month-old baby and thinking of the future. I had promised to return to work in February… I took a piece of paper and wrote down my masterplan for three years: I hope to become a math teacher within the next three years. 

You can make plans, but sometimes life still takes charge. Suddenly, I found a job ad stating that my home school is looking for a math teacher. Of course, I decided to apply – after all, I had nothing to lose. My only criteria for going back to work was that I could fulfil my long-term aspiration to take up studies in Tartu. To do that, I had to have Fridays off. What happened next was something I could not have even dreamt of: when my future employer heard of my aspiration to study in Tartu, they introduced me to the “Kogenud kooli” program.

So, every other Friday since September, I have been driving to Tartu to meet my great course mates and gain new ideas on how to be a better teacher for my students. I highly cherish my course mates – we stay in close contact, listen to each other, provide advice, exchange materials, encourage each other and share our personal stories – all this without the slightest hesitation or criticism. I genuinely enjoy going to the university and consider myself to be highly established in self-management of my studies. 

The program has lived up to my expectations. In contrast to my last studying experience, I am very happy with my lecturers and mentors. Apart from that, I was really surprised by the scholarship I received from the tech company Playtech Estonia who is supporting two of the program participants. 

Ivo Lasn handing over the donation voucher to Playtech scholarship grantees

The double workload of being a new teacher as well as a student myself is a lot to handle, but this is what I had expected. As I have the full support of my family, I haven’t faced many hurdles in time management. However, I have become accustomed to waking up one hour earlier each day to manage at least half an hour of schoolwork or get an assignment done. That is why my days are long and my average sleep time is around 6 hours each night. I know this is not forever, so I am holding on with less sleep. 

I go to work each day with excitement. You never know how the day will turn out, how the students will behave, what will be the pace of the lessons. But for sure, I am giving my very best to be a considerate, kind and enthusiastic teacher because I know that these traits lead the way to better contact with the students as well as to better results in their school assignments.

By now, I feel much more confident as a teacher, compared to autumn. Firstly, it is because I have received a lot of feedback from my studies that some of my intuitive practices as a teacher are also reckoned the best in theory. Me and my course mates see studying and practicing teaching in parallel as one of the biggest advantages of the program. That is because we can put everything we learn to work immediately, build associations between theory and everyday work more easily and receive affirmation that what we study works in real life.

I have had only one tough day when I felt it would have been easier at my last position. Nonetheless, it did not make me doubt the choice I made. In the end, it is the people that matter. There are pleasant people working at the University of Tartu, my course mates are awesome, we are anxiously waiting for our next study sessions and enjoy the time we spend together in Tartu. The company I have around me is simply superb!

Annika Koitmäe-Pihl
April 2020

*This year, the Institute of Education at the University of Tartu is looking for future maths and physics teachers to join the "Kogenud kooli" program and take up the practical MA studies in Teacher Education. Although the application deadline was April 30th, late applicants can still apply until July 1st. More information about the program: opetaja.ut.ee/kogenud-kooli

"We see studying and practicing teaching in parallel as one of the biggest advantages of the program. We can put everything we learn to work immediately, build associations between theory and everyday work more easily and receive affirmation that what we study works in real life."