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Valentina Mindoljevic and a student launching a water-propelled rocket at the Gimnazija Mostar science fair

Antonio Mendoza writes:
In May 2007 fellow video artist Skip Blumberg and myself traveled to four countries in the former Yugoslavia -- Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro -- to conduct video and media workshops for the MY HERO/GLOBAL EXCHANGE Project.

During our workshops in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, we met Valentina Mindoljevic, a physics teacher at the local Gimnazija Mostar. Immediately we were taken by her contagious energy and her love for teaching. Clearly she is greatly admired by all her students and parents and is as a spark of hope in a town that has been torn apart by inter-ethnic warfare.

Two workshop participants, Goran Tiro and Emina Kujundzic, made a video about Valentina and a water-powered rocket competition she organizes with her students as part of a school fair dedicated to space exploration.

Space is one of her great passions. The hope of worlds undiscovered and unlimited exploration are a metaphor for her dream of peace and tolerance in her town of Mostar and throughout the Balkan region.


TEACHER HERO:
VALENTINA MINDOLJEVIC
by Antonio Mendoza


MY HERO: Where were you born? When did you come to Mostar? What about your family? What did you do during the war?

I was born on November the 13th, 1970, in Split, Croatia. I came to Mostar at first as a volunteer for [a] British NGO (Non Govermental Agency). Later on I got married and divorced, but I decided to stay in Mostar. My parents live in Trogir, and my two brothers live with their families in Split and Zadar.

During the war I mostly volunteered for the Croatian NGO that provided social and psychological aid to children and women refugees in refugee camps all over Croatia. We organized our work through working camps with domestic and foreign volunteers. I worked with kids from Vukovar in two refugee camps in Zagreb. I also ran a place called "Peace Hostel" where I coordinated logistics concerning foreign volunteers and trained them.


MY HERO: When did you decide to become a teacher? What's your favorite thing about teaching? Want to list any of your achievements as a teacher?

I can't tell when I made the decision. Somehow I was always teaching others: from elementary school, helping my classmates, cousins, [I] did private lessons (in Zagreb I did it with kids that had behavior problems) so it was a natural sequence...

My favorite thing about teaching I don't know, I just enjoy being in the classroom, explaining the secrets of the natural laws, sharing my love for physics and math, curiosity...

I think my biggest achievement is being a friend to my students, being able to help them develop critical thinking and empathy for other people. There's no better reward than seeing them turning out to be good people with full personalities.


MY HERO: What advice would you give a young student? A citizen of Mostar?

There's always a future. It is important to respect all people, and to learn and achieve because that is the only way to change this world. There's no point in just criticizing; one has to be aware of what one can do for the community... This year I got a book from a second grade class in which they wrote a poem about my spirit fighting the spirit of the divided city and [they] said that what they have learned from me is that "there's no better tomorrow, just better us..." Well, I would say that is one of my greatest achievements.

MY HERO: How can Mostar overcome its segregation? How can the city heal and unify?

With constant work with young people. I don't like to emphasize it; it is so natural to have no segregation, for people to be together.

It is [a] very complicated process. It requires, first of all, higher standards, working places, and tolerant politics and politicians working for the people, not for personal or national interests. But any little contribution is precious.


MY HERO: How do you think MY HERO could benefit your community?

It can bring together people from different backgrounds. But most of all, it can help raise awareness about problems in the community and present what can be done or what some people are doing to solve them.

MY HERO: You seem to be very fascinated with space and space exploration. How come? How do you think space exploration helps your teaching?

Knowing about the universe is somehow knowing about ourselves. On the one hand I think that it makes us more openminded as we discover the history of our existence, our home in this enormous space. On the other hand, we appreciate our planet more and we can see it as a home for humans, very different humans that share it. So that notion is breaking boundaries, making us all one family in the Universe, sharing the same destiny.

Space exploration makes us aware of what we are we capable of doing. Searching for extraterrestrial intelligence makes us think what kind of beings we are, and any possible contact with them would teach us how to accept and appreciate differences. As a school discipline, it helps us develop the imagination and learn scientific methods simultaneously, what is very important for learning.

FILMS:

Valentina Mindoljevic (5:08 Minutes)
This project was produced by Emina Kujundzic and Goran Tiro as part of the MY HERO Global Exchange Workshops held at the OKC Abrasevic Youth Center in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Young Astronomers (Quicktime - 1:18 Minutes)
This project was produced by Adis Guso as part of the MY HERO Global Exchange Workshops held at the OKC Abrasevic Youth Center in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Written by Antonio Mendoza from Los Angeles
Images created by Emina Kujundzic and Goran Tiro
Last changed on: 9/12/2007 2:18:25 PM

Mostar: Historical Monument A page about the monuments of Mostar from Unesco's World Heritage Web Site.

Visit Mostar A Web site promoting the City of Mostar as a tourist destination.

 

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