In 2020, three alumni, Mariam Geldiashvili ’17 (Telavi, Georgia/Carson City, MI), Aleksandre Gulbiani ’19 (Tbilisi, Georgia/Henderson, NV), and Giorgi Orkodashvili ’18 (Telavi, Georgia/Fremont, NE), organized an eight-month Digital Skills Development Initiative for local teachers supported by the Alumni Grants Program organized by the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi.

After returning to Georgia from their FLEX exchange years, the three alumni realized the serious digital challenges teachers and public schools outside of the capital, Tbilisi, faced. The inability to effectively use online resources and plan student-centered lessons was apparent in many areas of Georgia, especially in remote villages in the mountains that are cut off from the rest of the country.  Inspired by their high school experience in the U.S., the alumni launched the Digital Skills Development Initiative to tackle these challenges.

They decided to focus on two specific regions, which needed the most help: the Keda Municipality in the west and the Akhmeta municipality in the east. Both regions have a lot in common: they face the same significant socio-economic challenges and have similar struggles with utilizing technology in their education systems.

Out of 300 applicants, 30 teachers were selected to participate in this intensive program. Those selected attended eight months of trainings focused on improving their usage of digital tools in the classroom and creating more student-focused curricula and learning environments. The teachers’ growth was monitored throughout the program to ensure that they implemented what they learned in their classrooms. The project gave the participants the necessary skills to not only improve their own classes, but also share their new expertise with their colleagues in their communities.

The Digital Skills Development Initiative concluded with a teachers’ development camp, where participants shared their experiences and new ideas they had learned from the program. The Georgian Deputy Minister of Education, U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kelly C. Degnan, and other high-profile guests attended the ceremony to congratulate the teachers on their achievements. The organizers are confident that this project, which they consider to have been a great success, was just the first step towards creating significant change within Georgia. “I believe that education is the key to a better future,” Mariam concluded. “I also strongly believe that our teachers will play a crucial role in creating it.”

After the program’s completion, participants reported that they improved their classroom environment and teaching methods. Based on post-program surveys, 29 out of 30 teachers had a positive learning outcome, with approximately 380 of participating teachers’ students stating that the quality of lessons had improved. In addition, the teachers created an online community of around 600 teachers from different parts of the country through which they continue to share their expertise, resources, and materials related to the program goals in order to further enhance the quality of education across the country. According to Aleksandre, “this project created a community, which will not stop [striving] for improvement and advancement after the official grant period is over.”

“This project truly gave us a chance to work for a bigger goal and achieve something meaningful for our community,” said Aleksandre. “Not only did we work to improve the quality of education and professional skills of teachers, but we also improved our understanding of the needs of our society.”

Written by Luka Bluashvili ’19 (Tbilisi, Georgia/Belleville, IL)