Teresa Ogrodzinska


This profile was prepared when Teresa Ogrodzinska was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
For the last fifteen years, Teresa has been committed to creating and nurturing educational environments for young children aged 0 to 5 in the most deprived rural areas of Poland. She has focused efforts on transforming the early education sector so that every child has equal access to educational facilities and the chance to participate in diverse learning opportunities. Therefore, Teresa has strived to create an environment that is caring, respectful, empathetic, yet challenging, and following children’s needs. Such an environment will eventually support the growth of aware and engaged youth who will be empowered and responsible for the development of their country and community as adults.

To achieve her vision, increase the ratio of enrollment into, and broaden the availability of diverse and quality-based preschool educational services, Teresa has converted hundreds of physical spaces for preschool education in the most rural areas of Poland. Her ideas on alternative forms of preschool education have resulted in the creation of over 200 playgroups in rural areas, engaging more than 4,000 children and parents, and over 100 rural libraries, where over 11,000 children and parents are active users. Teresa has also coupled this bottom-up approach with the top-down strategy of influencing policymakers and institutions of the education system. The practices that Teresa put in place have been introduced into legislation and recommendations at the national level and have enabled existence of diverse preschool facilities in Poland. Those practices have been included into the policymaking of the European Union (EU) and set a direction for funding structures for one of the largest EU financing instruments, the European Social Fund (ESF). The multiplier effect resulted in the creation of 300 new kindergartens associated with Teresa’s program and 900 more set up by other organizations, according to their standards and methodologies.

Teresa promotes the notion that investment in social capital and early child education will shape the community in the future. Therefore, using participatory methodology, Teresa has engaged rural municipalities and local communities in designing the education strategies for young children at the local level. Through this, Teresa has started a new movement which draws out the social and economic potential of women living in provincial areas and empowers them to be more self-reliant and play a more active role in their communities through preschool education. Teresa’s goal is to provide women with tools to start income generating-initiatives, encompassing a variety of activities for different age groups and audiences.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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