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Katarina Veljković

The spotlight is on Katarina Veljković, First Grammar School in Kragujevac, Serbia.

The First Grammar School in Kragujevac is the oldest high school in Serbia, founded in 1833. It is a secondary vocational school that caters to primary and secondary level pupils and specializes in the fields of socio-linguistics, natural sciences, and mathematics.

In 2014, the Kragujevac School launched several departments for gifted students: in mathematics, computing and informatics, and for those with special abilities in biology and chemistry. In addition, there are classes of 7th and 8th grade students gifted in mathematics. That same year, the school also joined Oracle Academy as an Institutional member, principally using the database teaching resources.

In 2018, the school received the designation Digital School from an international education coalition in recognition of its effective use of technologies for digital learning.

Katarina Veljković is a computer science and mathematics teacher in the department named for Students with Special Abilities in Computing and Informatics. Veljković has been voted Best Educator in Serbia and was a Top 50 finalist for the 2019 Global Teacher Prize. As a champion for change, she has pioneered the use of robots and other creative teaching methods, implemented distance learning programs, trained thousands of teachers on the topic of digital literacy, and co-authored accredited computer science textbooks for primary schools throughout Serbia.

The school has been an Oracle Academy Institutional member for almost 10 years.

Oracle Academy: Can you tell us how you get young people enthusiastic about database and technology?

Katarina Veljković: Above all, it’s important to be up to speed with developments. When I look at where we are, compared to when I fell in love with computing in high school, it’s mesmerizing. Teaching has to adapt too. What I learned through formal education is light years away from the rapid pace explosion of new technology in today's digital society.

Preparing students for future careers is hard work for everyone in the education system. Oracle Academy, with its free resources, gives me the opportunity as a teacher to follow all the changes happening in information technology. It gives me a simple way to be ahead of the curve and to easily adapt my lesson plans with what’s new and what interests the students. I want them to gain knowledge that will launch them into the working world.

Oracle Academy: What outcomes do you see from teaching Oracle technologies?

Katarina Veljković: For me it’s a two-part answer: what the students get out of it and what I as a teacher have reaped as a reward.

For students, the Oracle Academy database curriculum gives them the knowledge and skills necessary for tackling business problems, developing critical thinking, and for working as a team. They see the purpose of programming and gain an understanding of what databases do and how computers work. There’s nothing abstract or purely theoretical, because the courses give ample examples of real-world database design and programming.

As for me, Oracle Academy has been a two-fold learning experience. On the one hand, I am always up to date on new technology developments. On the other, my classes today have impact thanks to teaching methods I learned through my training with Oracle Academy.

It was in 2009 that I got to know the Oracle Academy database curriculum, and it was a profoundly new experience. Learning objectives made all the difference. The course was designed in such a way that, through clearly defined learning objectives, I knew exactly what I would learn and what level of knowledge I would reach from the learning materials. It was different from the dull listen and copy inherent in so much teaching.

There was constant checking of what we had learned, and sharing of mistakes, doubts, and positive results. All of this allowed me to transfer the learning outcomes methodology to my classroom, to put students in the role of active participants and not just listeners and observers. It also encouraged me to emphasize teamwork, feedback, and positive results.

Today I do the same—in each class, my students are presented with learning objectives for a particular lesson or teaching topic. In this way they know where they are going with their learning and how it will impact them in the working world.

Oracle Academy also opened my eyes on how to create inspiring teaching materials, including quizzes and interactive sessions, how to transfer knowledge, and how to apply different methods of work in my teaching process.

Oracle Academy: What parts of the curriculum do you teach?

Katarina Veljković: My classes are based on the resources available from the courses Database Design, Database Programming with SQL, and Database Programming with PL/SQL. I deliver them through the school’s Moodle learning platform.

I have been using Oracle APEX for 10 years as the framework for working with the database and programming material. Currently around 100 students access APEX twice a week and can do so from the school, from home, from anywhere.

By using the APEX platform, students can practice everything from the basics of databases to programming in PL/SQL. They can practice and test queries on database tables, but also create completely new tables as a solution to given business scenarios.

Oracle Academy: And how do you apply that in the classroom?

Katarina Veljković: Using the Oracle Academy materials, I assign them a business case that requires a database. They go through the simulation of interviewing stakeholders to get the requirements and the design of the database. First, they create the corresponding Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) and then, applying Oracle APEX to create tables based on the ERD, fill the tables with appropriate data and then test it. These are joint projects that prepare the students for working in groups later when employers request this. My teaching is all about preparing them for that real-world moment.

Oracle Academy: We are intrigued by the concept of your class for Students With Special Abilities in Computing and Informatics. Do you actively attract individuals to this program?

Katarina Veljković: Indeed, we try to promote the class for students with special abilities. Recently I organized a hackathon for 50 students across Serbia in the 7th and 8th grades. I gave them two days of training in Oracle Academy’s Greenfoot object-oriented introductory program. I am glad to report that more girls than boys participated, because empowering girls with technology is another of our aims.

The group came up with amazing presentations such as solving environmental problems in the community, changing the way we eat, how to settle Mars, monitoring a beehive. The event showed students how nice it is to learn programming and how programming knowledge can be applied in everyday life.

The main goal was fulfilled: 10 out of the 50 students are now enrolled in our computer science department for gifted students.

Oracle Academy: Brilliant. What can you tell us about the Oracle Academy Member Hub?


Oracle Academy helped me to turn things around, because of the learning objectives and the fact that Oracle technology is in productive use the world over and constantly evolving, and in fact spearheading innovation. Every year I find that the Oracle Academy database curriculum has the latest features and functions and keeps pace with or leads the changes in information and communications technology. It inspires me and this has been reflected in the awards I have been given.

Katarina Veljković: The Member Hub is a platform where I can find a huge array of quality materials that I can easily use in my regular classes. One example would be the Solve it with SQL workshop, which introduces databases and SQL queries to beginners, challenging students through fun role play to solve problems using a cloud-based database development environment.

One former student is director of scheduling at a large US construction firm, and he sometimes visits to talk about his approach to the challenges of his job. Others come head-hunting Primavera experts for the companies that employ them.

The Member Hub has a lot to offer.

Oracle Academy: You have been awarded best teacher prizes and have been shortlisted for Global Teacher Prize. To what do you attribute this recognition?

Katarina Veljković: I would say it stems from my own continuous search for professional development. Long ago, I saw the need to constantly improve myself and that means studying everything, being as up to date with the technology world around me as much as possible. Years of work and engagement with the teaching profession have taught me that flexibility, persistence, and introduction of new trends and knowledge are the only way to keep pace with ever-changing reality.

I apply diverse innovative methods of learning—Lego robots, Micro:bit, Arduino, Minecraft, Abelix, Moodle and other ways—to get children and young people enthusiastic about technology and eager to learn and realize their potential.

Fifteen years back, students found programming to be abstract and complicated. The syllabus strictly followed a defined curriculum that lacked elements of innovation and creativity, and this led to a lack of motivation for both students and teachers.

Oracle Academy helped me to turn things around, because of the learning objectives and the fact that Oracle technology is in productive use the world over and constantly evolving, and in fact spearheading innovation. Every year I find that the Oracle Academy database curriculum has the latest features and functions and keeps pace with or leads the changes in information and communications technology. It inspires me and this has been reflected in the awards I have been given.

And lastly, as a member of the government working group for the development of IT curricula, our school’s use of Oracle Academy database teaching for 3rd and 4th grade students has been adopted nationwide, and is now being deployed throughout Serbia in 56 high schools, with 800 students taking those classes.

Thank you, Katarina Veljković, for sharing your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.

We enjoy highlighting Oracle Academy members who make an impact on their communities and students. If you would like to be featured or nominate another member, please contact us.