Meet the Global Teacher finalists who raise poor, marginalised students

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Meet the Global Teacher finalists who raise poor, marginalised students
Sheikh Mohammed presents the 2017 Global Teacher Prize to Maggie MacDonnell, at the awarding ceremony in March last year. - KT file photo

Dubai - The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai on March 18

By Sarwat Nasir

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Published: Wed 14 Feb 2018, 7:18 PM

Last updated: Wed 14 Feb 2018, 9:30 PM

The top 10 finalists in the Varkey Foundation's $1million Global Teacher Prize have been announced in a special video, by philanthropist Bill Gates.
The prize, in its fourth year, was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.
The finalists for the prize have been selected from around the world, including the Philippines, UK, US, Brazil, Australia, Norway, South Africa, Colombia, Belgium and Turkey.
"For his patronage of the prize, thank you to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai," Gates said in the video.
"When you think about what drives progress and improvement in the world, education is like a master switch - one that opens up all sorts of opportunities for individuals and societies. Research has shown that having a great teacher can be the most important factor that determines whether students get a great education.
"Finalists were selected based on a rigorous set of criteria, including their proven effectiveness in inspiring students and helping them learn. Just as important, these teachers are leaders who have innovated in the classroom and mentored their colleagues. They have demonstrated the kind of collaboration - teachers and schools working together - that can give all students the opportunity to get a great education".
The finalists have been selected from more than 30,000 nominations and applications, from 173 countries around the world.
They have been narrowed down from a top 50 shortlist that was announced in December 2017. By highlighting their stories, the Varkey Foundation hopes the public will be able to join in passionate debates about the important role of teachers. The moving stories of each finalist have been highlighted in the Global Teacher Prize.
"I want to congratulate the top 10 finalists who have made it through from such a huge number of talented and dedicated teachers. I hope their stories will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world, every day," said Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize.
"The thousands of nominations and applications we received from every corner of the planet is testimony to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives".
The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai on March 18 - in its annual star-studded ceremony at the Palm Jumeirah, which will be streamed live worldwide.
Maggie MacDonnell from Canada won the prize last year ?and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent her a congratulatory video during the awarding ceremony.
* Nurten Akkus, Ayvacik Pre-School, Turkey
In a Turkish county suffering from poor socioeconomic and educational conditions, Nurten founded its first kindergarten. Before this, the children here had never gone to school, She worked round the clock to prepare the school for her students, painted and cleaned, created a playpark, and areas for sport, hobbies and recreation. Her students went from hardly being able to introduce themselves to strangers to becoming literate and numerate.
* Marjorie Brown, Roedean School, South Africa
Marjorie is a former human rights activist, teaching history to girls in South Africa and encouraging critical thinking and global citizenship. Her students have gone onto represent South Africa at youth forums, the Paris Climate Talks, and various Ivy League universities. She started and still leads the Kids Lit in SA programme, devoted to improving children's literacy in what is still a very unequal society.
* Luis Miguel Bermudez Gutierrez, Colegio Gerardo Paredes IED, Colombia
In 2010, Luis went to teach at the Gerardo Paredes School. The school is in one of the poorest areas of Bogota, rife with gun violence, poverty sexual abuse, early pregnancy and gender violence. Faced with this scenario, he decided to dedicate himself to solving this problem. He met the challenge by spreading education for sexuality and changing the curriculum itself.
* Jesus Insilada, Alcarde Gustilo Memorial National High School, Philippines
Jesus is a proud member of the indigenous people's Panay Bukidnon community. From a poor faming family, he is the first family member to achieve professional qualifications, and he's now the leader of, and teacher in, a school in the Philippines in a community where over 90 percent of students belong to Indigenous Peoples groups. Through his advocacy work, he has promoted education to indigenous communities, encouraging greater participation and far higher rates of enrolment in higher education.
* Glenn Lee, Waialua High & Intermediate School, US
An electrical engineer 24 years ago, Glenn Lee then became a STEM teacher to offer students real-world applications. Lee's pioneering efforts in building a robotics movement ignited a passion for STEM throughout the Hawaii state. Lee was determined to learn everything he could about robotics. He fostered partnerships, wrote grants, personally bringing in $5m, and in 1999 helped launch the state's first robotics programme in a small isolated, rural community. Today, over 750+ such programmes exist from grades K-12.
* Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima, Escola Municipal Darcy Ribeiro, Brazil
When Diego arrived to lead his school, it was notorious for being the most violent and drug-ridden in the aream with the highest dropout rates. He transformed the school by involving students, parents, teachers, school staff and the community. Diego implemented a student card system, the school library, and bettered teaching standards and practice, The school now has strong links with the whole community. Students feel they have a voice and are listened to and the majority of parents attend school meetings.
* Koen Timmers, CVO De Verdieping, Belgium
After an emotional 2015 phone call with an outreach worker in the Kakuma refugee camp in Africa, Koen Timmers decided to set up a crowdfunding campaign, to obtain resources to teach the refugees web designing. The teaching resources at Kakuma are now used by 100 global educators and Koen himself, to offer free education to African refugees via Skype. More than 20,000 global students from about 40 countries are involved in Project Kakuma.
* Eddie Woo, Cherrybrook Technology High School, Australia
Eddie is an enthusiastic maths teacher and school head. He is at the forefront of school-based integrated STEM education. His programme MathsPASS (Peer-Assisted Study Sessions) see Year 11 students mentoring struggling Year 7 students to help them to rebuild confidence, develop understanding and improve skill in mathematics. It has produced measurable improvements in Year 7s' numeracy, and it has also encouraged their mentors to pursue careers in education.
* Andria Zafirakou, Alperton Community School, UK
Andria teaches at Alperton Community School, a secondary school academy in the inner city borough of Brent. Brent is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the country and 130 languages are spoken in its schools. Its pupils come from some of the poorest families in Britain. Working as an art and textiles teacher, she redesigned the curriculum and created alternative timetables. Learning the basics of many of the 35 languages in Alperton's pupil population, she reached out to her once marginalised students, and now Alperton is now in the top 1 to 5 per cent of the country in terms of qualifications and accreditations, a colossal achievement.
* Barbara Anna Zielonka, Nannestad High School, Norway
Barbara is a teacher of English in both vocational and academic classes in a high school with a multicultural student population. In her career, she developed strategies and techniques that help low-achieving students succeed, using using innovative technologies - especially digitally based ones and methods or aids in teaching and learning. She is the 2017 recipient of Norway's prestigious Gullepleprisen prize, awarded to an educator showing the effective use of IT in teaching.

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