"Sometimes things just fall into place" – Nina Jelen on her participation in the #SaferInternet4EU Awards

  • Awareness
  • 31/10/2019
  • Nina Jelen, winner of the 2018 #SaferInternet4EU Awards' "Teachers" category

At the 2018 edition of the Safer Internet Forum (SIF), Nina Jelen, a Slovenian elementary school teacher, won first prize in the "Teachers" category of the #SaferInternet4EU Awards; an initiative launched by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel as part of a year-long campaign to support children, young people, parents, teachers, and other EU citizens to become empowered and responsible digital users. One year later, Nina looks back on this experience and how it has changed her career – and her life!

"Imagine that you are enjoying your vacation time at the seaside, resting from the school year, playing with the kids and reading books. And then you get an email saying that you are one of the three finalists for the #SaferInternet4EU Awards in the teachers' category and, as such, are invited to a high-level event in Brussels? I was still by the sea, but my mind was already in Brussels and I was overwhelmed with excitement and happiness.

"Attending the Safer Internet Forum in Brussels in November 2018 was brilliant. I've never been to such an educational conference before; it almost felt like we were attending a rock concert! Everyone was so excited and happy to be there. We were tweeting about it, sending photos and listening with our ears and hearts. All of the speakers were inspiring and incredible, and I learned so much that day. I'd researched online safety for kids before because I think it's really important that all of us who work with kids are familiar with online activities, but I still gained lots of new information and ideas. I liked everything, but I especially loved the presentation by Linda Papadopoulos, and her recommendations about kids' online safety. Presentation by other speakers and the information regarding courses, warnings and tips about online challenges were all equally inspiring, and there was lots that was really new to me.

"When I got the Award, I felt like I won an Oscar… only that this was even better because my award was for working with kids. How could you possibly get a better one? Both teachers and the school curriculum in Slovenia had quite a poor reputation at that point so, for me, being part of this was a little proof that we work hard and well. And, even though I work in a little village and in a little school, we are still doing big things.

"I think that being part of this conference changed me. I feel like I need to spread the information I learned at the conference all around Slovenia so our kids will stay safe online, and teachers and parents will know how important it is to teach them how to use the internet in a safe and responsible way. Since my attendance, I think I listened to all of Linda's online speeches and read everything on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) website. I prepared new lectures for my students, a lecture for teachers and parents at my school, and for a few others. I wrote many articles about it, I shared my lessons and my knowledge with teachers, and I'm also preparing a webinar for Slovenian teachers. So I can't thank you enough for the opportunity to have been there.

"In summer 2019, at the end of this school year, when most teachers had already left for vacation, I packed my bags and went to Brussels again to get my prize – a Future Classroom Lab course. I was there for the whole week – a week of having fun, cooperating, learning, making new friendships and designing new projects. For me it was the best prize that a teacher can get!

"First of all, I learned so much. We talked about dynamic positions of classrooms, applications, games for children, tools for teachers, creativity, formative learning, online safety, flipped learning and so much more. This course will definitely help me improve online safety initiatives back at school and will allow me to include more creative practices and use online activities in a positive and educational way.

"Second of all, it was a great opportunity to get to know other teachers, their work, their systems and to start a new project with one or more of them.

"It was also a great opportunity to get to know myself a little bit more. Traveling alone and attending international courses definitely boosts your self-esteem, enhances your inner self, and broadens your horizons.

"I'm really thankful for this award. For me, it was one of the best professional experiences for my educational background and teaching skills. As I said, it was the best prize that a teacher can get. And I know I will use it well.

"On the last day, I was sitting in the Future Classroom Lab and thinking: ‘is this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or will I get a chance to come here again?' I really hope I will!

"I believe that this was one of the best things in my teaching career, and when I'm old, I will surely brag about it!

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Read more about the #SaferInternet4EU Awards and Safer Internet Forum 2018: "The impact of technology on children, young people and society" on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, and learn more about the upcoming 2019 edition of Safer Internet Forum: "From online violence to digital respect".


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