In 2017, FAR, as part of its Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP), conducted a survey in Tavush Province to understand where the Berd Region’s public schools stood in terms of having qualified teachers. We found there was a dearth of teachers for subjects like math, chemistry, biology, English, history, etc. As a result, we developed a partnership with Teach for Armenia so that select fellows could start teaching in Berd and its surrounding communities, which is where FAR has been implementing BCPP for the past five years.

From philosophy to ethics and values to—believe it or not—rabiz music, a Teach for Armenia fellow named Mariam Marikyan has since adopted bold and diverse methods for making meaningful progress with the 78 students in the border village of Nerkin Karmiraghbyur.

Shortly before the start of the school year, the young theology specialist showed up and assembled everyone to prepare for a typical performance of folk dances and songs to be given on September 1st, the first day of school. Right after that, Mariam committed to teach for the next two years in this public school and to become a leader, thus expanding educational and after-school opportunities, like the song and dance groups for the students that she will be leading for all grades. Mariam will also mentor all of the school’s seniors.

Mariam, 22, was born and raised in Gyulakarak Village in the Lori Region. She was 15 when her parents moved the family to Vanadzor in search of a better education for their three children. In 2010, she entered Yerevan State University, majored in theology and Turkish studies, and initially intended to pursue a master’s degree abroad. It wasn’t until she took a short-term substitute teaching job and liked it so much that she applied for Teach for Armenia on a whim. Now, she finds herself teaching grades five to eleven in Nerkin Karmiraghbyur. For her, teaching the history of Armenian churches was one of the most challenging and fulfilling parts of the job. “Together with my students, we embarked on achieving new goals at the end of this year. For example, the goal for the 12th-graders is to pass their university entrance exams; for the 11th-graders it’s to love whatever they like to do and make it a hobby, etc., and so on,” remarked Mariam.

Mariam has designed new methods of inspiring the future of her pupils through love towards their peers and engaged learning, which includes debate sessions, group work, and Q&A sessions. “Equal education for all,” she said. “No matter if you’re born in the capital or in a rural community, you have a right to education—this is my core responsibility as a teacher and as a human being. I’m glad to see some tiny changes in my students; they ask questions more confidently, they argue with me (something we wouldn’t do back in my time), they are more engaging and effective. I’ll be happy if my students exceed me in knowledge and skills. This would be my achievement as a teacher,” she said, while also emphasizing the aspect of “giving back.”

Mariam learned to do so when she first got involved with FAR through her student council in college. “I learned that during my university years, when I dressed as Santa Claus to go mingle with the kids at the FAR Children’s Center in 2012. Now, I’m happy to have the opportunity to help children.”