Sandra Marise de Abreu Antunes: Motivating Students to Dream Big | Aga Khan Academies

Sandra Marise de Abreu Antunes: Motivating Students to Dream Big

For Grade 5 teacher Sandra Marise de Abreu Antunes, when it comes to stimulating students and keeping her classroom alive, the sky is the limit. From encouraging spontaneity in her young learners to making creative use of the “Talking Walls” curriculum, one of Sandra’s main goals is to launch an environment in which students feel free to dream and dream big.

“Teaching for me is to inspire students to build beautiful and magnificent magical castles. To me this is being a teacher,” she says enthusiastically.

For the two years that she has been at the Aga Khan Academy in Maputo, Mozambique, Sandra has focused her efforts on building a sense of cohesiveness, a sense of belonging in her classroom where her students feel safe to express their imaginings, their ideas and their thoughts.

“I always encourage my students to play together and share. In the classrooms, I take advantage of all the walls, to turn them into walls that speak, that reflect learning. Students' works are also displayed on these walls. These walls reflect colour and joy!”

Born in Angola and educated in her ancestral country of Portugal, Sandra holds a degree in teaching and a postgraduate degree in Information and Communication Technologies. In addition, she has more than 20 years of experience teaching at various schools in Portugal and Angola. She also worked as a Coordinator of School Libraries in Sao João da Madeira in Portugal, for which she received an award from the country’s Ministry of Education.

Asked who it was who influenced her in her journey toward teaching, Sandra does not waver in her response.

“It was my mom,” she says decisively. “I think what influenced me to go into teaching was the fact that my mom always encouraged me to pursue this career. At the time when she was young, she could not study because her father did not let her. She dearly wanted to be a teacher.”

What drew Sandra to apply to teach at the Academy? She says it is the serious commitment the school has towards its students and teachers alike and the lofty goals it has set for itself. She particularly values the emphasis the Academy places on the professional development of its teachers.

“For me it is with great honour and pride that I teach at the Academy. I believe in the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan and the honourable purpose of the Academies. Another trait that is distinctive to the school is its teacher education/development programme. It is dynamic.”

Sandra also feels that the Academies’ adoption of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme was an “excellent choice” because of its unique educational approach. Although the IB curriculum was a challenge to her initially, she enjoyed the challenge.

Sandra is careful to inculcate various strands of the Academy’s curriculum in her teaching, including diversity.

“In my classes I always try to adopt strategies and measures that promote respect, and acceptance of the differences of all of the students. The teacher who builds an environment that upholds equality in the classroom is a reflective teacher.”

“I am committed to the multicultural approach to ensure the highest sensitivity to diversity. It is essential that teachers understand students and their families from different regions of the country and even from abroad, so that they can respect the diversity of languages, behaviours, religions and ways of life, and be able to manage conflicts. In my classes I always give the students real‐world experience so that students develop empathy and tolerance.”

To Sandra, “trust, friendship, solidarity and mutual respect” are of paramount importance in a teacher-student relationship. To build this kind of relationship requires hard work, she says.

“For me being a teacher is not a simple task, rather it is a task that requires love and skill. In my view, the teacher is not simply one who transmits knowledge. The teacher's role is much broader. It surpasses mere transmission of knowledge.”

In addition to teaching at the school, Sandra is also involved with the Mozambique Professional Development Center (PDC), an outreach component of the Academy. A major objective of the PDC is to provide high quality professional development programmes for local teachers and pedagogical leaders from a network of selected primary schools in the country. Along with other external facilitators, Sandra is currently aiding in the Early Reading and Writing course. The other two PDC programmes include a Certificate Course in Educational Leadership and Management and Early Numeracy and Geometry.

Reflecting on her time at the Academy, Sandra states that all her days at the Academy are “pleasurable.” However, the one day that will always remain her memory was the time she visited the Academy site while it was still under construction. She felt a sense of belonging, a sense of connectedness then, she states.

By Perviz Walji

For newsletter readers, click here to return to the newsletter