A passion for improving education has taken Tatiana Rostovtseva around the globe and fostered her interest in multicultural education. Currently she is teaching in Bulgaria on a Fulbright fellowship.
Passion for Education Reform Takes Tatiana Rostovtseva around the Globe
“Education is wildly important,” asserts Tatiana Rostovtseva (BS09), who has experienced education in six countries on four continents and wants to make schooling the best that it can be. “The more systems I immerse myself in, the more I’ll learn about education and the more I’ll be able to innovate,” she says.
Currently she is teaching in Bulgaria on a Fulbright fellowship. In the past six years she has worked in India as a Clinton Fellow, in Rwanda for the Ministry of Education and in a Ghana kindergarten through a Hess Grant from SESP. In addition, she has worked in the United States developing online textbooks. All these efforts track her passion for reforming education.
She traces that passion back to attending a high school labeled educationally unacceptable by the state of Texas, a school where only 60 percent of the freshman class graduated. “Having that experience made the need for education reform much more immediate,” she says.
Rostovtseva vowed to learn to provide the kind of objective advice her high school lacked. She majored in learning and organizational change at SESP to pursue education reform from an organizational standpoint. “It made sense to me to learn how we can apply business to education and make sure efficient organizations are putting the needs of teachers and students first,” she explains.
“Learning and organizational change gave me different lenses with which to view the field,” she adds. She also credits social policy and education courses and the wider context of Northwestern for furthering her career and development. “I learned a lot from the SESP faculty,” she notes.
For Rostovtseva, who was born in Russia, multiculturalism in education is a must. She ponders how schools can make students aware of diverse cultures and how teachers can foster a multicultural atmosphere in the classroom. Currently she is working with her Bulgarian students and fellow Fulbrighters to create open-source curriculum materials. “How do we make multicultural education accessible for teachers and students?” she asks.
She found inspiration in India, working with the Rishi Valley Institute for Educational Resources. She valued the institute’s thoughtful multicultural designs for student-centered learning in multi-level classrooms. Later in Rwanda she saw the need for culturally relevant content for computers purchased through the One Laptop program. She organized teacher training to create computer content using Rwandan artifacts and settings. “The comfort level went up for the teachers, and they were excited to use the content in the classroom,” Rostovtseva says.
An early formative experience for Rostovtseva was working in a kindergarten classroom in Evanston during her four years of college. The experience showed her not only the complexities of being a teacher but also the challenges and results of instituting an Afrocentric curriculum, which she saw as a step toward multicultural education. “You could see the difference it was making every day,” she says.
Sophomore year was when she first became interested in international education and journeyed to Ghana. “I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from different contexts to challenge my thinking about education. I do really enjoy that and would love to work globally,” she says. Now she’s hoping to head for a graduate school program with an international comparative education focus. Long-term, she wants to work within nonprofits and government as an education consultant.
Real-world experiences around the globe have sharpened Rostovtseva’s perspective on education. For example, she believes that Ghana and Rwanda place more emphasis on learning for learning’s sake and have less disillusionment with schools than the United States. One of her goals is “restoring hope and value in schools.”
Overall, she wants schools to foster a passion for education and give students the tools for learning that they need for future jobs — ones that might not even exist today. She says, “In an ideal education system, creativity has to play a large role.”