Ourania (Rania) Lampou, a Greek neuroscience researcher and elementary school teacher from Athens, has been distinguished internationally for her achievements as an educator, by winning the “Best Teacher Award” at the 2020 Global Teacher Awards.
Although this is one of the biggest honours that any teacher can receive, it is one of the many awards that Ms. Lampou has won over the last few years for her teaching in physics.
Her innovative methods and practices, that emphasize on the combination of theoretical and practical experiments, even for students of a very young age, have attracted the interest of educators from around the world.
“The teacher’s job is not easy. Many may think that it is limited to teaching hours in the classroom, but every teaching hour in the classroom hides behind it many hours of preparation and lesson planning, as well as training at home.
“The truth is that in many cases, teachers go beyond themselves, creating teaching tools that take the lesson to the next level and give the information to the students in a playful way, which makes it easier for them to absorb it. This is what I also strive to do with my students,” Ms. Lampou stated.
The Greek teacher specializes in STEM subjects in Greece, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and is an international educational term used for particular fields of natural sciences that start from primary school level and go up to PhD level students.
Ms. Lampou teaches physics to students aged between 6-12, in a very original way, focusing on experiential and exploratory learning, autonomy and active student participation, through trial and error, in a series of interactive STEM projects.
What distinguishes her from her colleagues is that she teaches abstract concepts of physics through art, painting, collage and theatrical play, something which has been considered revolutionary in the world of exact sciences.
In collaboration with her students, she uses digital tools to create educational videos that she then presents to the general public at various events, and which aim to explain physics concepts in a simple and fun manner.
My students approach complex concepts of physics through an experiential way, where emphasis is placed on learning through exploration. The goal is for them to understand what is actually happening in a physical phenomenon, rather than just learn the theory by heart, without clearly comprehending how that phenomenon occurred,” Ms. Lampou explained.
“With the application of STEM methodology, and the combined teaching of physics and other sciences, students are involved in the process of solving real problems, while acquiring critical thinking skills, and learning to work together in a group,” she added.
In 2019, Ms. Lampou was also named by The Varkey Foundation (a global charity organization that is focused on improving education levels around the world for children with disabilities) as one of the “50 Best Teachers in the World” with the Global Teacher Prize 2019, for her work in physics at the “Playing with Protons” program, which is organized by the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Physics (CERN). The Global Teacher Prize, is considered the as the “Nobel Award for Teachers”.
After a challenging year for teaching, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Lampou stood out from her peers for her efforts and the projects she created along with her students, regardless of the difficulties and obstacles caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I felt great joy and I became emotional when I was informed that I was awarded the Best Teacher in the World Award for 2020.
“It is my 25th prize and my joy is the same as it was when I won my very first prize.
“This recognition justifies my many years of efforts, struggles and sacrifices in the field of education and gives me the impetus to continue even more energetically. I also feel proud to represent Greece and Greek education with this distinction,” she mentioned.
The Best Teacher in the World Award –by the International Organization AKS- has been previously awarded to worldwide recognized professionals. This year in particular, Ms. Lampou’s award held a special honour, as she was applauded by AKS and the educational sector for her work with young students during such unprecedented and extenuating circumstances.
“I received my first recognition in 2016, when I participated at a physics program hosted by the European Organization for Nuclear Physics. As part of this program, my students implemented amazing creative activities, simulated physics experiments and many original constructions. They used a variety of materials and techniques, including wood, collages, LEGO, 3D printing, and we even organized together an art exhibition for physics.
“Since then, I have taken part in numerous competitions with my students and their love for physics, also motivates me to work harder and become a better educator every day. I continue non-stop, in collaboration with schools abroad, to implement interdisciplinary STEM projects, which are awarded worldwide by many different international educational and humanitarian organizations.”
Ms. Lampou is also the International Ambassador of Volunteerism and Education of Greece and has won multiple awards for her work in education in Dubai, India, the UK and Greece. Some of her titles include “Global E-Innovation Award Winner”, “Pan-European Diversity in STEM Winner”, “Education Leader Award of 2020”, as well as several International Humanitarian awards and honours.
“A good teacher does not just teach, she inspires. She teaches her students how to learn and how to think. She is resourceful in transforming problems into opportunities, and encourages her students to express not only their views, but also their feelings. The magical teacher-student relationship is largely shaped by the teacher’s love for her students, and for passion for the subject and course.”
Talking about the educational system in Greece and her peers, she mentioned that “I think Greek teachers are very active and do a truly remarkable job.”
“This was demonstrated in the period of the coronavirus, when teachers rapidly embraced e-learning, they created and uploaded numerous learning objects on online platforms and successfully supported the very difficult educational processes. I believe that the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the leading role of the teacher, who from an invisible hero, became a true leader.”
“I intend to continue working to promote the STEM methodology online, through workshops, seminars and lectures. I will also continue writing science books for children. I think getting kids interested in sciences from a young age, helps shape their future.
“I really enjoy writing about physics and astronomy in an original way through cunning dialogues and stories, which I believe is the best way for young children to learn. Children are very smart and as educators we owe to do our job as best as we can, for the leaders of tomorrow.”
All photos from Rania Lampou’s Facebook.