In our second Staff Spotlight post, and in recognition of today being the 1st day of the new school year, we interviewed Academic Coordinator Gvantsa Koberidze. Gvantsa received her Bachelor’s in Journalism from Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University and her Master’s in Education Administration from Ilia State University. She has worked for TLG as a member of the Academic Team since April 2011.
What were you doing prior to working for TLG?
I was an intern for the PR department of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia.
And so, how did you get involved with TLG?
Our internship finished in March 2011, and then we heard that there were positions available at TLG. The head of the PR department recommended me and two other interns, two Natias, to the TLG program manager.
Okay, and what are your responsibilities at TLG?
My responsibilities at TLG are as follows: The Academic Coordinator is the leader of the Academic Team. I monitor volunteers’ performance at school, collect information from volunteers and from local English teachers and analyze the information. Based on this information, we present our analysis to the program managers and plan future projects accordingly.
So what is a typical workday like for you?
Oh [laughs], let’s say during the school year, OK? Not in summer.
When I come in the morning, I have a bunch of emails from regional representatives or from volunteers. I have to respond to them. Then I get calls from regional representatives asking for help or recommendations or suggestions for how to deal with this or that issue. At the same time, I work on various projects and resolve any issues that might come up during a day without any prior notification.
What has been the Academic Department’s greatest accomplishment and what is your vision for the future?
Okay, the first year of the program was a huge challenge. No one had any experience working with TLG volunteers and the TLG volunteers, generally, did not have any experience working with co-teachers. One day, though, we went to Kakheti to observe one volunteer’s lesson. She had a lesson in the 6th grade and she was conducting the lesson alone. Well, the co-teacher was there, but she was not very involved in the lesson. The volunteer was talking to the students and all the students—ALL the students were talking in English. They were talking to the volunteer without any grammar mistakes and without any accent. When you are in the classroom and you see this for yourself, then you can feel what a great accomplishment the program is.
How do you think TLG has been received by Georgians—especially by school administrators and by Georgian teachers?
First it was hard. Local English teachers thought that “These foreigners are coming here to take our jobs and who-who are they? How they can teach us when they don’t even know anything?” But then I think they saw the meaning of this program and gained first-hand experience working with TLG volunteers! And now I think cooperation is much easier for volunteers and local English teachers and for school administration for one reason: they see the point of having a TLG volunteer at school. They’ve seen the results of having a volunteer in the classroom.
If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be and why?
Mmm, it’s—uh, I don’t know the fruit’s name in English. It’s like a cherry?
But it’s not a cherry. It’s bigger, a little bigger [Making a circle with her fingers] and it’s red and it’s really sweet.
Uh, no. ბალი. You know that, in Georgian?
No, but I’ll look it up. [writing] ბა–ლი?
Yes. [pause] And, yeah exactly! This fruit is only ripe for a very short period of time during the summer and it’s very sweet, I just love it!
What is your fondest TLG-related memory?
Hmmm… [pause] Oh! The trip to Batumi. Because we had four to five hours to arrange the whole trip. To get two hundred volunteers to Batumi and it was like an extreme challenge. And we did it! And I think the volunteers enjoyed the play, the stay in Batumi and—
What was the trip for?
Oh, the president invited TLG volunteers to a play. It’s the Georgian version of Romeo and Juliet. It’s a love story by a Georgian playwright.
How has TLG impacted you personally and/or professionally?
Oh my god! [Laughs] it made a huge difference in my life [laughs]. When I look back and I see myself a year ago or two years ago I feel—like physically—I feel how much I’ve learned and how much stronger I am, how much I’ve learned. TLG made me a professional, an expert. I’ve studied education at university, but it’s very different from reality. [Pause] It is one of the greatest things in my life!
Okay, um, what is the most important, interesting, or unique thing about Georgia that you think people should know?
[Laughs] Oooh, I have to think. Oh, the most exciting thing that I love in Georgia is Georgian dance. I just love it.
What about it?
They are so exciting, so energizing! And when you watch it—when you are at the concert and you watch the dances you are just so..tense! Oh gosh! It’s a feeling that I will never forget. And I think that that’s one of the most exotic parts for foreigners as well. I know that a lot of foreigners have not seen Georgian dances. Sure, there is food and nature and people and architecture and that kind of stuff, but I think what makes us unique is Georgian singing and dancing.
Two more questions,
In three to five words, describe Georgia.
Oh, come on! [Laughs]
OK, “Oh, come on,” that’s three.
[Laughs] I don’t like your limitations but… [pause] Today’s the basketball game, yes? And I have this excitement all day—like a rush. I don’t—I don’t know how to put this into words, but this strange proud feeling that I have about the game, that’s my Georgia.
And then, last question. What is your favorite style of Khatchapuri?