13 May 2009 Another year, another clutch of prizes for the ORT Russia network. The Russian Federations highest award for excellence in the field of education, the Presidents Prize, has been awarded to four teachers at ORT schools. Natalia Fomenko, Nadezhda Belova, Vera Egorova and Irina Bobrova have been deemed to lead the country in their use of modern technology, their ability to communicate knowledge and in their students academic results. Ms Fomenko, a computer science and information technology teacher, is the third staff member at the ORT Gesher school in Samara who has received this award in the past three years. Previous winners were fellow computer science teacher Irina Pogodina in 2007 and Jewish Studies teacher Simona Fleisher in 2008. This prize is not only recognition of my merits but of the merits of the school as a whole, Ms Fomenko said, stressing the benefits she and other staff members enjoy thanks to being part of the ORT network. Natalia Fomenko (top left), Nadezhda Belova (top right), Vera Egorova (lower left) and Irina Bobrova (lower right) The support of specialists at the ORT Technology Centre enabled me to produce material of the highest quality for the contest just as it helps me to maintain high pedagogical standards throughout the year, she said. In addition, my development as an educator has progressed thanks to the seminars which ORT provides for its teachers. The exceptionally high standards achieved by the ORT schools in Russias cultural capital, St Petersburg, continued to impress adjudicators this year. History teacher Ms Belova and Biology teacher Ms Egorova are both on the staff of the ORT de Gunzburg School in the city. Their wins places them in the same league of premier educators as their Deputy Principal, Gregory Vodopyan, who won the Presidents Prize last year, 2007 winner Irina Lukina and Olga Tuzova, who won it in 2006. And two years ago, the school itself won the Presidents Prize for innovation and excellence in education an achievement mirrored last year by St Petersburgs ORT Jerusalem School, where Irina Bobrova teaches. This award is not only recognition by the Government of the long term results of our work, Ms Belova and Ms Egorova said. It is also recognition of everything we have learned through working at an ORT school. Teaching here has given us the opportunity to use the most up-to-date information technology and to share experiences at international seminars. The award is confirmation of the necessity of constant self-improvement which is inherent in the culture of our school. Ms Bobrova said that it was taking a while to sink in that she had won such a prestigious award but was already planning to participate in other pedagogical competitions to open new horizons for myself. And she thanked her colleagues saying, This award is not only mine, but belongs to the school and pedagogical staff as well. The repeated official recognition of the ORT schools high performance risks making the prizes less newsworthy, quipped the Head of World ORTs Coordination and Education & Technology Departments, Vladimir Dribinskiy. But what these awards show is that World ORT is meeting its top priority: to attract and retain top notch teachers to its schools. If we want to succeed we need the best teachers; they are our greatest asset, Mr Dribinskiy said. No matter how good the technology is that we provide, if the teachers are not good then parents will not send their children to our schools. Parents want to see bright, capable, professional people teaching their children otherwise they will opt for the many schools which are available to them in their cities. If we want to convince people to send their children to a Jewish school then we have to build teams of the best teachers. He congratulated the individual teachers on their well-deserved success but added that the awards were also recognition of the achievements of the teaching teams as a whole. The integrated learning, this new style of project-based learning, requires good collaboration among staff members, he said. Were happy that this has been acknowledged by the State authorities.