Maggie MacDonnell from Canadian Arctic bags $1 million prize

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Maggie MacDonnell from Canadian Arctic bags $1 million prize
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and Sunny Varkey, Chairman of GEMS Education and Varkey Foundation awards the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2017 to Maggie MacDonnell

Dubai - MacDonnell was announced as the winner through a special video message from an astronaut at the International Space Station.

By Sarwat Nasir

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Published: Sun 19 Mar 2017, 7:23 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Mar 2017, 8:43 PM

Maggie MacDonnell from the Canadian Arctic bagged the $1 million prize as part of the Global Teacher Prize Award.
MacDonnell was announced as the winner through a special video message from an astronaut at the International Space Station.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was in attendance and awarded MacDonnell with a trophy on stage.
UK's Prince Harry and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also left video messages for the winner and spoke about the importance of prizes as such that highlight the important roles teachers play. Bollywood celebs Ranbir Kapoor and Mahira Khan also took to stage to congratulate the winner.
MacDonnell, a teacher in the Ikusik School, thanked the Varkey Foundation and His Highness and spoke about the struggles that she faces as a teacher back home.
"We matter, teachers matter. I believe so much in the power of human connection and the greatest gift I will take away from this special time in Dubai is the gifts of friendships I've made. To all those 50 finalists, I connected with you," McDonnell said.
"I think many of you might know the community I'm living in right now is dealing with a suicide crisis. One story I'd like to share that haunts me but I need to share so the world knows about it. As a teacher, I have witnessed over 10 suicides in just a short period of time and when you go to your church in the community and take the body to the graveyard, the memory that continues to haunt me is when I see these Canadian teenagers, their own very classmates digging their graves and leaving their bodies into the tundra. That was a Canadian reality.
"As a teacher when you come to school the next day and there's an empty desk in that classroom, there's a stillness and a silence that's coming from that desk. Thank you for the bottom of my heart to His highness and the Varkey Foundation for this platform that celebrates teachers."
Trudeau congratulated MacDonnell in a video message and said that teachers play a big role in shaping a student's life.
He said:  "On behalf all Canadians and from one teacher to another, congratulations on winning the Global Teacher Prize 2017. Thank you for your support in the teaching professions in this prize and your continued efforts in promoting peace and understanding.
"I also congratulate the Varkey Foundation for your commitment to education throughout the world and thank you to every teacher out there. Teachers owe responsibility to me, to students, to parents, to school boards, but in the end as all great teachers know they're responsible for something far greater. They're responsible to the future and for the world we shaped by the children they teach. I'm sure Maggie would be the first to say the Global Teacher Prize is a tribute to all teachers wherever they are. So to our winner, our ten finalists and to every dedicated teacher around the world, thank you."
Ranbir Kapoor came onto the stage next and thanked teachers around the world and introduced Prince Harry, who spoke in a video message.
Prince Harry said teachers play a role in helping students through their different phases of their school years.
"In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, the very best teachers go beyond the pages of textbooks to teach people determination, aspiration, resilience, and of course compassion. We all face setbacks in our lives and our teachers play a vital role in preparing us for those ups and downs. The finalists are from every corner of the world, from the Canadian Arctic, from Kenya and from Pakistan, but there's one thing they all have in common - they all spark curiosity within a child and nurture the dreams that can change our lives for the better," he said.
"I'm sure everyone can remember the teacher that did that for us. I can certainly pinpoint those who've had an impact on my life. Our foundation is proud to partner with foundations like the Varkey Foundation."
MacDonnell was among 10 finalists flown to Dubai to attend the ceremony. The nine others hail from Pakistan, the UK, Jamaica, Spain, Germany, China, Kenya, Australia and Brazil.
MacDonnell has been teaching for six years in a remote Arctic village called Salluit. According to her biography, Salluit is home to the second northernmost Inuit indigenous community in Quebec, with a population of just over 1,300, and can only be reached by air.
Her perseverance to continue teaching in the remote area, where many teachers leave their post midway through the year, made her a standout for the award. MacDonnell created a number of programs for boys and girls, including job mentorship and funds to assist with healthy meals.
She also established a fitness center for youth and adults in the local community, where drug use and alcoholism rates are high due to the region's harsh winters and isolation. The tiny village witnessed six suicides in 2015, all affecting young males between the ages of 18 and 25.
Her approach focuses on emphasising "acts of kindness" such as running a community kitchen and attending suicide prevention training.

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