Sergejs Bratarčuks

IB Computer Science and Physics teacher at EIS

Meet our Superheroes

By Marianna Hodash
Photographed by Sergey Skopintsev. The publication also includes photographs from a personal archive.
June 3, 2024

At Exupery International School, we believe that teaching is one of this planet's most complex and important jobs. Teaching is lifelong learning. It involves being compassionate, curious, having a sense of humour while being trustworthy, caring, intelligent, and disciplined. That is why we think our teachers are superheroes and want you to meet them! Here's Sergejs Bratarčuks, our IB Computer Science and Physics teacher.

— Please share your overall work experience and how long you have worked as a teacher.
— I have been working as a teacher since 2000. After graduating from University, I spent a year or two figuring out what I wanted to do in life. I got to teaching somewhat accidentally. A friend offered to come to her school and teach two computer science lessons a week. At that time, I already had a higher education in Computer Science, and the Ministry of Education allowed such employment.
sergejs bratarčuks, eis computer science and physics teacher
After two weeks, I was promoted to principal, and the completely new and fantastic world opened to me at school turning out to be much more exciting and attractive than a programmer's lifestyle.

Well, we were the smallest school in the city and were soon shut down. I moved to the largest school in my country and spent 17 years there. I had fantastic students, colleagues, an amazing director, and plenty of opportunities to develop and be creative. From a CS teacher, I also extended into teaching Physics, combining two worlds close to me — virtuality and algorithms and the reality of the Universe.

Today, I teach students at Exupery International School most of the time. In addition, I teach in master's and bachelor's programmes at Riga Technical University and give theoretical training to pilots in a flight school. I am happy. It is a great luck and privilege to do what you love in life.
— Please share your overall work experience and how long you have worked as a teacher.
— I have been working as a teacher since 2000. After graduating from University, I spent a year or two figuring out what I wanted to do in life. I got to teaching somewhat accidentally. A friend offered to come to her school and teach two computer science lessons a week. At that time, I already had a higher education in Computer Science, and the Ministry of Education allowed such employment.
After two weeks, I was promoted to principal, and the completely new and fantastic world opened to me at school turning out to be much more exciting and attractive than a programmer's lifestyle.

Well, we were the smallest school in the city and were soon shut down. I moved to the largest school in my country and spent 17 years there. I had fantastic students, colleagues, an amazing director, and plenty of opportunities to develop and be creative. From a CS teacher, I also extended into teaching Physics, combining two worlds close to me — virtuality and algorithms and the reality of the Universe.

Today, I teach students at Exupery International School most of the time. In addition, I teach in master's and bachelor's programmes at Riga Technical University and give theoretical training to pilots in a flight school. I am happy. It is a great luck and privilege to do what you love in life.
sergejs bratarčuks, eis computer science and physics teacher
— From your perspective, what is the essential aspect of your work?
— The most interesting thing about being a teacher is the opportunity to see living people who grow and change, who are happy and upset, who pursue their dreams and find themselves in them. The most important thing is to remain human, not overly didactic, and genuinely interested in people.
What challenges do you encounter in your role as a teacher?
— A simple phrase from Antoine Exupery describes the most challenging thing in a teacher's work — "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." Sometimes, students say they want to study robotics, programming, astronomy, physics, do projects, prepare for competitions, or do something else — this is a powerful magic funnel. You always want your students to succeed. But this is also a complicated question: are you ready to go on such a long journey with them? Are you ready not to demand the impossible if they don't succeed? Can you design this game around a student so that they don't lose their passion and reach their peak? Are you ready to be on this journey with him until the end?
— Beyond teaching, what are your hobbies, and how do you spend your free time?
— Many hobbies appeared and disappeared during my work at school, but what I jokingly call "triple A" remained — Alpinism, Aviation, and Astronomy. It doesn't matter what I'm doing today — climbing a mountain, piloting a plane or looking through a telescope, all three hobbies are about the same thing — time to be alone in front of the picture of the endless beauty of this world. I also like to play keyboards and guitar. I love jazz and classical music, and I try to attend different concerts. Once upon a time, I studied at a theatre school, so I am into the theatre. I also love travelling with friends.
— How did you start piloting, and where did the idea come from?
— In my childhood, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut, not a pilot. Any boy in the 1980s would share this dream, I guess. Some dreams come and go; some stay with us. A few years ago, Latvia was associated as a member of the European Space Agency.
a pilot sergejs bratarčuks
That coincided with a large-scale ESA recruiting campaign. So, this was my chance. They wanted to hire one astronaut and one astronaut with a disability position. At that point, I didn't know that 30,000 participants had applied.

Among submitted documents for the first selection round, a "Class 2 medical" examination was required, which happened to be the same document for being a private pilot. I am a dreamer, yet some rational part of mine told me that maybe there's theoretically possible somebody in Europe could be a better astronaut, so I applied both to ESA and pilot school. Flying an airplane was my "Plan B" to get closer to the sky.

I tried doing my best both in flight school and in the space selection process. After passing the "paper round" and getting to the on-site round of astronaut check in Hamburg, I didn't perform sufficiently in one of the tests and was suspended, yet I finished in the flattering top 5%.

Sometimes, chasing a dream brings you to the other one. Now I have my wings, amazing friends and colleagues, and possibly the beginning of a new hobby career as a flight instructor.
— Could you share more about the most exciting places you have visited or the highest mountain you have conquered?
— Alpinism and mountain hiking are fantastic ways to experience the beauty of nature, get challenged as a team and discover the most remote places. I joined the mountaineers club in Riga and participated in many trainings, competitions, and championships. I got some medals and made a lot of friends.

Altai was the most magical mountain region, the wild Southern Siberian place between Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. We could walk in Taiga, crossing passes and climbing showy peaks without meeting a single soul in weeks. One can experience nothing alike in Europe. It's too overpopulated here. The highest peak was on the outskirts of Pamir Mountain ridge, in Tajikistan, 5489m (about half the cruising altitude of a commercial jet), Chimtarga mountain. By now, it was also the most technically tricky route I climbed. The most vibrant was Tongariro volcano in New Zealand, featured in the Lord of The Rings by Peter Jackson as the "Mount Doom". I climbed Mont Blanc a couple of times. All the mountains are beautiful.
— With so many diverse hobbies, how do you find the time for all of them?

— Einstein's theory of relativity states that the faster you go, the slower your time ticks. This law of the Universe explains an object's tendency to occupy space where it ages at its slowest. Life is too precious to miss it.

— Additionally, how do you stay motivated?

— Students are the everyday example that keeps me remembering the meaning of wandering, the joy of living, dreams, and believing that life never ends.

— Could you share your biggest dreams or aspirations with us?

— My current dream is to create things that fly to space. I am affiliated with an R&D organization, and we develop technologies and instruments that could open the way to space, even for small countries like ours.

And what would be your advice to an aspiring teacher?

— Bring something to school other than your subject. Continue to develop not only in methods and curriculum. There must be some part of your life, education, and hobbies that connects school life with the real world. Both the teacher and the school need to see that there is something more after the final exams.

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