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Helena Ruuska

Marja Helena Ruuska
Born May 7, 1958, Heinola

Master of arts 1984 (Finnish literature), licentiate 1995, PhD 2010, University of Helsinki
Qualified as a comprehensive school teacher 1980, University of Helsinki

Professor of Finnish language and literature 2009–, University of Helsinki, the Normal Lyceum of Helsinki
Publishing manager 2001–09, Otava publishing house
Lecturer in Finnish language and literature 1994–2001, Kruunuhaka secondary school
Class teacher 1980–94, City of Helsinki

Publications, awards and special achievements:
Eeva Joenpelto. Elämän kirjailija, 2015
Marja-Liisa Vartio. Kuin linnun kirkaisu, 2012

Textbooks and teaching material:
Kärki 7, teaching material for Finnish language and literature, 2015
Aleksis 7–9, teaching material for Finnish language and literature 2002–15
Piste 1–3 and 4–6, teaching material for upper-secondary school Finnish language and literature 2005 and 2006

Literary reviews in various newspapers, most recently Helsingin Sanomat 2009–

Positions of responsibility:
Vice-chairman of the Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers 2012–
Member of the national curriculum working group for the primary school teaching of Finnish language and literature 2012–14

Photo: Pertti Nisonen / WSOY
Written by Helena Ruuska (Tomas Sjöblom, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Swept away by textbooks

Helena Ruuska became a textbook writer by chance. She was asked for feedback on Otava’s new Finnish language textbook for primary school pupils, Sanataituri, and before she knew it she was a member of the writing team.

Over the years, Dr Ruuska has written Finnish language and literature study material for secondary and upper-secondary schools, the most successful of which was the Aleksis series, the leading series in lower-secondary schools during the golden years of Finland’s PISA rankings. At the time of writing, Dr Ruuska is involved with the textbook series Kärki, which follows the 2016 syllabus and is also designed for lower-secondary school children.

It is said that you learn a thing only when you have taught it yourself. Helena Ruuska would continue this by claiming that you have learned something only when you have produced study material about it: written page-turning copy tailored to the age group and exercises which guide students towards gaining insights and seeing the connections between things.

Dr Ruuska has also edited and written articles related to the formulation of study material. The collection of articles Kirja muuttuvassa tietoympäristössä (‘Books in the changing information environment’) and Laatua! Oppimateriaalit muuttuvassa tietoympäristössä (‘Quality! Study material in the changing information environment’) can be found on the website of the Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers (in Finnish).

Textbooks also took Dr Ruuska out of school for eight years to Otava’s granite fortress on Uudenmaankatu. From 2001–09 she was responsible for Otava’s humanities study material. Her teacher training and experience also provided a sound foundation for the profit-centred world of business. One series of textbooks after another saw the light of day, but gradually the work became repetitive. It was time to complete her doctoral dissertation and ponder a new angle on reading, writing and teaching.

The lessons and experiences from the publishing world nevertheless later bore fruit in courses taught at the Department of Finnish Literature on publishing and in her work on the board of the Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers.

Helena Ruuska has participated in planning and developing the syllabus for comprehensive school teaching of Finnish language and literature in the years 2012-14.


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