News President of the Republic’s Cultural Foundation Young Educator of the Year awards presented

President of the Republic’s Cultural Foundation Young Educator of the Year awards presented


“This year’s laureates have shown us once again that you can get a good education wherever you live in Estonia – whether that be Võru, Tallinn, Tartu or Pala,” said President Kersti Kaljulaid at the ceremony held today in Kadriorg to present the President of the Republic’s Cultural Foundation awards for 2017 in education and the sciences. “The greatest resource that we have here in Estonia is that which lies between everyone’s ears, which is why we have to maintain and foster our uniform schooling everywhere.”

The Young Educator of the Year awards for 2017 were presented to Maksim Ivanov, a maths teacher from Annelinna Gymnasium in Tartu; Grete-Stina Haaristo, the director of the Anna Haava Pala Basic School; and Karmo Kurvits, the director of Võru Gymnasium. The Special Science Award was presented to Martin Saar, a chemistry teacher and the director of studies at Tallinn Secondary Science School.

“When you have a small population, one person often has to do the work of many,” President Kaljulaid said. “Looking at the roles you fulfil – teacher, school director, hobby group leader, even founder of a new school – it is clear that you too are contributing to educational life in Estonia in a number of ways.”

Speaking on behalf of the recipients, Martin Saar said that if Estonians could be said to have any religion, it would be education. “Our faith in education comes from our home lives, from our friends and family and from our teachers,” he explained. “I would like to share this recognition we have been given with them, and with our students.”

The education awards are financed by Danske Bank and are valued at 4000 euros each. Ivar Pae, the Director of Danske Bank A/S Estonia branch, says that those whose dedication means they do more than is expected of them deserve to be recognised and appreciated. “Education is and always will be the cornerstone of development in our society,” he said. “It is important to shine the spotlight on true professionals who inspire everyone else through their work and the contribution they make. Let these prizes stand in recognition of the high esteem in which we hold their work.”

The Special Science Award is sponsored by Skype Estonia and is valued at 4000 euros. Andrus Järg, the CEO of Skype Estonia, says that the Estonian education system needs capable young teachers to bring education in the country up to the global standard. “Martin Saar is one such educator,” he said. “He is a friendly, dedicated and respected teacher among his students and fellow staff and makes a significant contribution to improving teaching methodology, sharing experience and cooperating internationally.”

Maksim Ivanov is a maths teacher from Annelinna Gymnasium in Tartu who runs his classes based on the principles of language immersion. He is also the chief specialist in maths instruction at the University of Tartu Youth Academy and an enthusiastic reformer when it comes to the teaching of the real sciences, including in the use of digital technology in teaching. The study resources he has created have won awards in both the Tiger’s Leap and HITSA competitions. Through the Youth Academy he works with many schools and his students have successfully competed in international Oympiads.

Grete-Stina Haaristo is the director of and a teacher at the Anna Haava Pala Basic School. She is a biology graduate of the University of Tartu. After her university studies she went on to join the ‘Youth to School’ programme, completing it as part of the ninth graduating class and joining Pala School as a teacher in autumn 2015. She has taught a range of nature subjects and informatics and has also been a class teacher. As a hard-working person with many talents, including the skill of getting young people involved, she has furthermore served as the head of hobby studies at the school and as the director of Pala Municipal Youth Centre. She became the director of the school in autumn 2017 and is currently the youngest school director in Estonia. She has launched a number of innovative initiatives at the school (partnering with the Smart Laboratory being one of them) and fostered cooperation with both the students and their parents.

Karmo Kurvits is the director of and a teacher at Võru Gymnasium. He is a social sciences graduate of the University of Tartu. He began teaching at the age of 22 at Tartu Art School before going on to become the key figure in the founding of Võru State Secondary School five years later. As the school’s founder he has been a visionary, set an example and made carefully considered choices based on the school’s location, community and day-to-day life. As a teacher of enterprise studies he has provided guidance to around 50 student companies, one of the best known of which is the wooden watch manufacturer Wooch.

Martin Saar is a chemistry teacher and the director of studies at Tallinn Secondary Science School. He has stood out in his work for being a very capable teacher with many strings to his bow: he has instructed students who have achieved outstanding results at national and international Olympiads; he had compiled and edited methodology materials; he has initiated and launched innovations in teaching; and he has shared his experience with many colleagues. He has also trained fellow staff on the use of ICT resources (digital data collectors, data analysis and creating structural formulas).