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Celebrating February’s Global Schools Advocates of the Month

Written by Raquel Armendariz, Global Schools Project Lead (Communications).

The Global Schools Program (GSP) is proud to announce the last batch of Advocates of the Month from the 2023 cohort and recognize them for their efforts in contributing to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) throughout their mandate. Below are the nine featured Advocates. Congratulations to all. 

Inderjeet Sokhi (India)

Inderjeet Sokhi is a school counselor and member of the enrichment team at her school in Mumbai, India. As a Global Schools Advocate, Inderjeet is surpassing expectations by providing numerous activities with creative and innovative projects, and thanks to her efforts, she's even promoting sustainability with less-involved students and community members. For that, Inderjeet and her 4th-grade students created a "Lazy Person's Guide to SDGs," which complies with a simple list of actions anybody can do to work towards sustainability. 

Other projects Inderjeet conducted include the delivery of a "peer learning session" where she discussed the insights into queer affirmative counseling practices while relating them to SDGs 3,5 and 10; the delivery of a guest lecture on "telehealth counseling" that discusses the best practices for counseling; and the hosting of an "SDG Assembly" which thanks to a survey conducted among students on SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) they were able to implement specific actions to help achieve these Goals. Passionate about promoting equality and creating a peaceful and cooperative environment within the school, Inderjeet has also implemented a "Ban Bullying Campaign," which the young student council started implementing this past January. The campaign's goal is to help spread awareness and report instances of bullying to Inderjeet so the behavior can be addressed promptly by fostering a culture of open communication and empathy, abilities that align with the needs of a global citizen. 

Looking ahead, Inderjeet has several ongoing actions to help her continue her advocacy journey after graduation. These include an e-waste management project, personal safety for younger grades initiative, a self-growth through a learning plan, and activities with students from grade 8 that will cover how to take action to share SDG 16 with the local community. 

Sarah Santillan-Isern (Zimbabwe) 

As a Global Schools Advocate in Zimbabwe, Sarah works to shape the minds of young learners and empower them to become participants in building a sustainable future. Through various designs of classroom learning experiences, she helped broaden learners' understanding of the crucial role of the 2030 Agenda by integrating them into subjects such as language, arts, maths, or social studies. Through various activities, she's encouraged students to analyze complex problems, evaluate alternative solutions, and develop other skills and abilities needed to tackle today's biggest challenges. Resources used by Sarah include case studies, simulations, and systems thinking that evaluated current world events and allowed students to engage in meaningful discussions on how to advocate for a more just, equitable, and sustainable future for all. 

One of its key initiatives of Sarah was an elementary-wide activity that promoted SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions) and discussed the essential roles of young leaders in advocating for peace and unity. By using artistic skills and performing arts such as music or dance, Sarah led learners to create a community peace pledge showcasing students' rich connections to how we can develop a mindset of peacemakers. Furthermore, during their school's International Day, she continued this mission by highlighting the importance of celebrating diverse perspectives as we collate them as a community idea for establishing justice and peace in school systems.

On the other hand, at the classroom level, Sarah has been pursuing the integration of ESD by implementing diverse system-thinking approaches, more precisely, by utilizing the Primary Years Programme (PYP) framework, a transdisciplinary, inquiry-based, and student-centered approach. Some examples of her work include students investigating energy sources to learn about SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and how the targets allow stakeholders to make informed, responsible, and environmentally aware decisions. 

To continue her work for the rest of the school year, Sarah aims to promote ESD among her students and their day-to-day progress, promote the SDGs in her lessons, and continue developing unique and innovative learning experience designs. 

Ben Williams Olaka (Kenya)

Ben Williams Olaka from Kenya has emerged as a transformative force in education with his role as a Global Schools Advocate. After conducting the training and putting into practice everything he learned, Ben served as a lead for the rest of his colleagues as he was able to train the head of institutions, the staff, and colleagues from his school and even outside of the community to familiarize them with the principles of ESD and the SDGs. Notably, at the community level, he met with church leaders and emphasized the importance of the church embracing SDG 17, Partnerships for the Goals.

Additionally, as an English and Creative Arts teacher, Ben was able to promote the mission of GSP within the school and conducted several activities to take action towards a sustainable world. Some of these activities include training the staff, using GSP resources such as lesson plans for students to learn about a variety of SDGs, preparing and presenting participants for the African Climate Summit, aiding the school in promoting SDG 15 by drafting policies on tree planting, and initiating a Climate Action Kids Club which aims to involve the students directly in the creation of a more environmentally-conscious school. Furthermore, to focus the attention on specific topics, Ben worked with students in curriculum content mapping for SDGs 16 and 17. 

Above all, Ben’s vision is to see the SDGs being taught in every classroom and implemented in the already established curriculum. Similarly, his mission includes continuing to spread the important message as a Global Schools Advocate and plans to help colleagues and other teachers become Advocates themselves. For that, Ben has become an SDGs-focused trainer, coach, and mentor to continue implementing the 2030 Agenda further. 

Fasanya Opeyemi Elizabeth (Nigeria) 

As a Global Schools Advocate, Fasanya Opeyemi Elizabeth is successfully integrating the SDGs into her educational environment both at the school and community level. What's more, to promote her students' involvement, she established an SDG club at the school, which has been pivotal in fostering awareness and helping students understand what the Goals are and what actions they can take for them to be fulfilled. Under her guidance, the club has successfully initiated several activities, such as a literacy campaign, where students contributed by donating textbooks and writing materials for children in rural areas, bridging the educational gap, or visiting a rural school where they engaged with the children by reading and fostering a culture of literacy and mutual learning. 

Furthermore, as an English teacher, Opeyemi has been able to incorporate the SDGs into her class curriculum by encouraging students to explore and reflect on each Goal through weekly essays. This innovative approach not only enhanced the students' writing skills but also deepened their engagement with global issues. Other projects led by Opeyemi include celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, helping students promote inclusivity by including sign language in the school curriculum, tasking the students to develop speeches on climate action to educate the school and local community and empower the people, and assisting students who where learning about energy build a small truck using affordable electronic features to work the engine. 

Although Opeyemi admits it's been a little challenging getting teachers and students involved, she recognizes their outstanding efforts in the last months to embrace this new approach to education. Thanks to her fantastic work, she's been able to empower students, help them identify the Global Goals correctly, and turn them into global citizens who can build a prosperous and sustainable future. 

Saadia Shams (Pakistan) 

Saadia Shams has successfully incorporated ESD activities since introducing her new Advocate role to her school leadership and colleagues. From conducting workshops with her fellow teachers to hosting academy sessions with the parents of the students, Saadia knows the importance of involving the community and allowing them to participate in hands-on projects to shape a prosperous society. More precisely, the academy sessions recognized the role of parents in young children and developing their moral values, so it served as an opportunity to reflect on how they can help their kids achieve the 2030 Agenda and gain the necessary values to become global citizens.  

However, the first thing that Saadia did was create a strategy where she captured her goals and vision on how to incorporate sustainability into the curriculum, helping her better understand the scope of her work as a Global Schools Advocate. From there, while working directly with the students, Saadia implemented activities that allowed them to enjoy learning about relevant topics. For example, one of the activities included learning about SDGs 3,5 and 10 while doing sports, dancing, or celebrating a music week. Other projects include a climate action steps session, a recycling project, or a "peace beyond borders" campaign that promotes peace messages by the school community. Additionally, to improve the school's environment, Saadia also designed an improved litter or waste management system, which, by making the students responsible, makes them more committed and accountable for maintaining a clean school for everyone. 

Finally, to continue her efforts of advocating for a more proactive local community, Saadia has also started an extracurricular club related to climate action and promoting quality education beyond the school, as well as engaged in a variety of partnerships with local NGOs to tackle problems related to SDGs 4 and 13, Quality Education and Climate Action, respectively. 

Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Mazziotti (Argentina) 

Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Mazziotti, from Argentina, has been a key figure in his school and for his students to learn more about the importance of caring for the environment and society. Through different local socio-environmental projects, he’s been working primarily on building sustainability in rural villages, which he has improved thanks to frameworks on permanent and dialogical peer-to-peer environmental assessments. By organizing clean-up campaigns, planting trees, and exploring relationships between rural people and wild animals, he’s empowered these communities and implemented a unique and innovative approach that shows that sustainability can be implemented in every corner of the world with the correct localized solutions.  

Additionally, Juan’s efforts are also creating a positive impact on his students. For example, grade six students focused on the aforementioned environmental projects in rural communities by identifying problems and brainstorming actions to solve them. One was the problem with waste and how it’s not recycled correctly. However, after learning about SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production, students prepared a local campaign to teach the community how to separate waste, recycle, and even reuse some waste properly. This initiative has led to the fostering of a more engaged community and the promotion of a more environmentally conscious environment. 

On the other hand, with grade three students, Juan implemented projects that discussed SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) and, more precisely, sex education. Thanks to this approach, students learned about sexuality, healthy relationships, sexual orientation, gender identity, and the right to education of pregnant students. The discussions, which involved some artistic resources, such as comics, allowed the students to identify current social stereotypes and discrimination related to gender and sexuality, helping them further explore aspects related to SDGs 5 and 10. 

Ahmet Murat Zeytcioglu (Thailand) 

As a Global Schools Advocate, Ahmet Murat Zeytcioglu is dedicated to promoting Education for Sustainable Development, integrating the SDGs into the curriculum, and, more specifically, encouraging them in mathematics. Through innovative initiatives, he has successfully instilled values of kindness, empathy, and gratitude in students while addressing SDGs 4 and 11, which have served as catalysts for meaningful discussions on sustainability and community engagement, lasting impacting students' understanding of social responsibility.

Through his teaching experience with different grades, Ahmet could adapt classes for each grade level and give them a unique experience to learn about other initiatives and sustainable solutions. For example, with Grade 6 students, he focused on rations and connected it to SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) by cooking healthy and nutritious cookies for the school staff. In contrast, the unit for Grade 7 students was related to percentages and linked to SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), which allowed students to investigate the national tax systems, discuss the minimum wage, and engage in real-life scenarios that served as a hands-on experience for students to understand financial issues and income inequalities. 

On the other hand, at the school-wide level, some activities presented by Ahmet include a PowerPoint contest on the SDGs, service projects that broaden students' perspectives and inspire them to take action, and promoting environmentally conscious choices through workshops on sustainable living practices. As evidenced, Ahmet's dedication to promoting sustainable education initiatives has been commendable, and he looks forward to continued collaboration with the Global Schools in the mission to create positive change in the world. 

Şebnem Özhal (Turkey) 

Şebnem has triumphantly leveraged her expertise to advocate for global education initiatives. Through her actions, she has promoted the importance of cultivating lifelong learners who are prepared to thrive in an interconnected world with ESD activities, and through these actions, over 700 students have benefited. Some examples of in-class conducted activities include an activity focused on data analysis regarding SDG 12 and how it relates to a healthy lifestyle or a culture and heritage-related trip to the archeological museums that served the students to learn about the first civilizations. In fact, promoting history-related activities and relating them to the SDGs has been a significant point in the activities conducted by Şebnem, showcasing that all subjects in school can be related to sustainability. Regarding this matter, for 8th-grade students, she prepared a worksheet on the history of the revolution of her country and, through that, supported the ability to distinguish the impact of technological changes in production on social life, which allows students to understand interconnectedness, diversity, and critical thinking and analysis, skills and values of global citizens. 

On the other hand, recognizing the UN's international days and acknowledging the SDGs has also been a priority for Şebnem. During the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, painting activities were conducted to foster empathy, while on International Women's Rights Day, an event was planned to raise awareness of SDG5 and celebrate the achievements of women who are leaders and changemakers. Finally, on Human Rights and Democracy Day, a ceremony was celebrated to recognize the importance of advocating for human rights. 

Finally, at the community level, Şebnem has been contributing to a non-governmental organization promoting equal education opportunities and assisted with several projects within the framework of SDG 4. These opportunities have resulted in engaging students in areas with educational disparities, addressing students' unique challenges, and striving to bridge educational gaps and create more inclusive and adaptive educational strategies for better learning environments. 

Jennifer Marie Richmond (Spain) 

Jennifer Marie Richmond, an English teacher based in Spain, has leveraged her passion for ESD by engaging in various initiatives and collaborations locally and globally. Beyond teaching, she collaborates with local leaders and educators to promote cross-cultural understanding within her community. As one of the driving forces behind Teachers for Peace, a remarkable initiative that began in 2022 to promote the transformative power of education globally, Jennifer has fostered generosity and empathy through education, especially for those affected by conflict and inequality. Combining this role with her Global Schools mandate, she has organized regular workshops and professional development sessions focused on ESD topics for teachers in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and across Europe. Other projects led by Jennifer include promoting inclusive language centered on individuals with disabilities, sessions on integrating the SDGs into the curriculum, and activities advocating for gender-inclusive education. Additionally, she has been involved with several other organizations that allow her to advocate further for the SDGs, and by leveraging the platform, she has engaged with grassroots organizers, activists, and changemakers worldwide to promote sustainable education practices and initiatives.

Moreover, at her school, Jennifer has been integrating sustainability principles into all her lessons by fostering environmental stewardship and global citizenship among her students, showcasing the importance of preparing youth and learners to tackle today’s biggest challenges. In addition, through impactful partnerships with social change champions, Jennifer has spearheaded the Youth Changemakers Club. This student-led initiative has expanded to include chapters of the Environmental Droners, a group utilizing drone technology for social good. 

Looking ahead, Jennifer is committed to advancing ESD within her community and beyond. By collaborating with local schools and language academies, she aims to integrate ESD into curricula to enhance student engagement and learning outcomes. Jennifer inspires positive change in education for sustainable development through her dedication and advocacy.