Martina Bodnarova

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Martina Bodnarova was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Through SuperClass, Martina is cultivating and spreading empathy in Slovakia, beginning with the educational system. Her idea is based on the premise that every child has the right and capacity to participate and shape the cultural life of society. Martina uses the Slovakian school system as the mechanism to actualize her vision. She has developed an applied model of inclusive pedagogy to transform educational practices in Slovakia that unites dialogue and cooperation, while also fostering community and social conscience. At the heart of her methodology, Martina incentivizes new values in the school system including participation, openness, and teamwork. Through incentives, she creates an educational framework that values the unique qualities of every child. As a result of SuperClass, kids learn to act together when solving a problem and mastering a challenge, taking advantage of the unique set of skills in the group. Martina creates space for kids to express themselves freely, which for many, is the first time they are recognized as part of a solution.

Through SuperClass, Martina insinuates the teaching of empathy, cooperation, and changemaking behavior into the school system so that children learn these skills. She does so, however, under the guise of a competition, with language and performances familiar in Slovakian school classes and extracurricular activities. Even though SuperClass enters the school system looking like a competition, in reality it is non-competitive in its approach. Through SuperClass, Martina brings kids together to independently envision, plan, design, and create a performance around a particular theme. The competition theme varies by year, but always reflects current social issues and mature subject matter. These themes aim to increase the cultural awareness of children, teaching them to feel, think, create, and discover their talents. Every child, regardless of his/her background, race, ethnicity, or school, is ultimately a co-creator and a winner, and receives recognition by SuperClass. SuperClass incentivizes kids to cooperate with each other and the teacher. It improves their social and communication skills, equips them with new perspectives for their private and professional life, and encourages them to participate actively in the community.

Because SuperClass is active on the national level, it creates meeting points for children from a multitude of schools, regions, towns, and social backgrounds. In SuperClass, all children are equal, whether they are from different ethnicities, rich or poor families, have disabilities or are young offenders housed in juvenile detention centers. Martina’s idea is successfully spread through engaged teachers within various subjects, especially Slovak language, literature, religion, ethics, and music. There is a growing interest by students and teachers to apply the methodology beyond this traditional sphere, such as in the geography or mathematics curriculums. Martina sees her model of inclusive pedagogy as a tool for transforming and humanizing the entire field of education.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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