|27 Sep 2023|
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize|
Ana-Maria Rusu sees connections and related ecosystems everywhere, particularly when it comes to tackling challenges, discovering bridges of survival, continuity and learning, even in contexts of permanent crisis – whether they are classroom, geopolitical, or personal – and has come up with multiple solutions to connect to others through a book or online guide; inventing games; putting poor children on national stages; founding communities.
Diagnosed late with ADHD she empathizes with children from all backgrounds, working with 16,000+ students. She currently meets 1,000 middle schoolers weekly who are neurotypical, neurodivergent, from divided families, below the poverty line, of Roma ethnicity, with huge emotional issues, all combined into general classrooms. Feeling compelled to create simpler ways of understanding concepts through music, adapted to teaching material and student ages, Ana-Maria developed the "teaching through fascination" method where she composes songs for each learning unit, consolidate facts through rap, use gamification, play spoons and combs on YouTube, created special materials, and uses apps and composition platforms, seamlessly integrating these ideas and content into children's everyday life, inspiring joy and progress, curiosity and confidence. These informal approaches are known throughout the Romanian space and diaspora. To help tackle bullying she started a Calm Art program, where children with disciplinary problems joined the choir for at least a month to prove that they want to rehabilitate and 80% of them decided to stay.
During the pandemic she developed the MEMIS online platform as a space where teachers and students access complete music education lessons for four age levels: kindergarten, primary, middle and high school, thus covering 90% of the music education school curriculum through over 180 complete lessons. MEMIS has had 30,000 worldwide website visitors and 27,700+ Facebook followers, her methods replicated throughout Romania and the Republic of Moldova and often presented in workshops as a transdisciplinary way of learning through music. Also during the pandemic, Ana-Maria created the Perform with Household Items and Music Pill online series, that improved conduct and attendance with 10,000+ loyal student fans waiting for episodes on Mondays, many provided feedback and video responses, and teachers nation-wide using her course materials on musical games with non-formal instruments.
As Romania neighbors Ukraine and music is the only universal language that can easily reach all children, Ana-Maria initiated the "Cantus Mundi for Ukraine" campaign with a musical activities guide facilitating work with Ukrainian refugee children, along with training for teachers and volunteers, the guides downloaded by 30,000 people, benefitting 9,000 Ukranian children coming to Romania and used by 500 teachers, volunteers and NGOs. As well as winning a host of awards herself for her innovative teaching methods and great results with so many students, they themselves have gone on to great things: two founded a music school, three live exclusively from music, one is a composer, one is in the Romanian charts, four changed from Math-Computer Science to the Conservatory, one founded a choir at his Dentistry university, 150 became teachers. Together with her students they have won 47 prizes at profile competitions, 10 at the National Choral Olympiad, two at international competitions.