Faculty Profile Questions
By Kseniya Maksimava
What is your position at Branksome Hall Asia?
MYP Design Teacher
Where are you from, originally?
I am a citizen of Belarus. But I was born and in Kazakhstan where my mom is from and spent 8 years in Latvia where my dad is from before I moved to Belarus. My family is a mix of nationalities and ethnicities and after having spent so long in Korea, it’s very hard for me to identify myself with just one country.
How long have you been at Branksome Hall Asia? In Korea?
It’s my ninth year in Korea and sixth year in BHA. I came to Korea to do my graduate degree in Educational technology at Kyung Hee University. I was lucky to study under a very passionate professor who introduced me to Maker education and problem-based learning. In my last year at school our team ran a big project with Samsung where we traveled to remote Korean schools to teach design thinking. I loved it so much! After the first class I knew that it was exactly the job I was meant for and I never looked back. After the project finished, I was lucky enough to find Branksome Hall Asia. I joined the Branksome Hall Asia design team which shared my passion and philosophy. It also meant I could keep living in the country I grew to love so much!
In what other countries have you taught?
I taught at a school in Belarus before and participated in youth projects all around Europe as a youth trainer. Before joining BHA I also worked in the Technology startup industry for a couple of years so I am really passionate about entrepreneurship and cutting edge technology.
What languages do you speak?
Belarusian, Russian, Polish, English and Korean. I just started learning Chinese. I also “speak” a couple of programming languages.
What are the best things about teaching at Branksome Hall Asia?
Students, of course. Extremely smart, talented, capable and motivated. I’ve never seen so many amazing students in one place at the same time. They inspire me every day.
Additionally, I work with passionate and experienced professionals, the best teachers I’ve ever seen. My first thought when I visited BHA for the first time was “wow, I want to learn from these teachers.”
What are you most proud of doing at BHA, so far?
This is a difficult question to answer. I feel like the last 5 years were just so full of really great projects we have done with my design team, it’s hard to single out one. But I think one of the big things I’m proud of is the partnerships with companies and organizations we have developed. We collaborated with big science companies such as Solvay, IT companies like CISCO, CLO3D, Applied Computing foundation. We had projects with speakers and mentors from NASA, Kakao, Google and many other companies in the technology sector who mentored our students in Hackathons, business competitions and advised on their design projects.
These partnerships gave some outstanding opportunities to our students to extend their learning into the real world. My favorite moments include the year 2021 when we co-hosted Techstars Startup Weekend hackathon,which happened in 9 different countries at the same time and our students won 1st and 2nd prizes among adult teams and proceeded into Kakao Accelerator. This event also was a jumpstart for BHA startup culture. Now we run a couple of Startup camps every year and have more and more students interested in building their own businesses. I hope the startup programs in Branksome Hall Asia will keep growing.
Another highlight just happened recently. Last year I had the pleasure to take 2 of our design students to Tianjin,China to participate in XR (Extended Reality) Cup, and this year these 2 students got into a Silicon Valley VR startup powered by one of our partners, Applied Computing Foundation. I’ve taught these girls for a while and I am extremely proud of them.
What inspires you?
Creative people (especially our students) and innovation. I thrive on new projects and fresh ideas.
If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?
“Errare humanum est” - To err is human
I say it in class all the time: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Making mistakes is great! The most successful learners aren't the ones who consistently score the highest grades. Instead, they are the ones who embrace the process of making mistakes and, more importantly, learning from them. School is the safe space for you to make mistakes, practice falling and getting up. This is how you become resourceful, resilient and ultimately, a better person.
If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?
I would take everyone to Sri Lanka! I spent all summer there and it was an amazing experience. The country is full of breathtaking nature, kind people and a rich history and culture. I feel like our students would greatly enjoy it.
What is your favorite Korean dish?
감자전 or potato pancake, it is also a traditional dish in my country and it reminds me of home.
What is something you want people to know about you?
As you might already know, I love animals a lot. Growing up, with my family we rescued and raised over 40 animals, ranging from cats and hedgehogs to wild swans and turtles. So if you ever need a pet advice, I most probably will have some tips to share and I would always love to chat to some fellow animal lovers :).