What makes a great teacher? A mastery of their subject? A passion for learning? A drive to make the world a better place?
All of these qualities can be found in abundance among the 10 teachers from around the world shortlisted for the 2018 Global Teacher Prize.
The Prize awards $1 million each year to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession.
These are all teachers who have made a significant difference in their students’ lives – sometimes against all odds – and they deserve to be celebrated.
These are the 10 Finalists.
Nurten Akuuş, Turkey
Nurten founded the first kindergarten in her community. Her students went from hardly being able to introduce themselves to strangers to becoming literate and numerate. Their rate of knowledge and skill acquisition increased from 20% to 90%. Their behaviour disorders decreased.
To remedy the low level of family participation in children’s education, she pioneered the project, “Daddy, Tell Me A Story”. This led to fathers’ participation in education, both in her area and Turkey as a whole. As a result of seeing their fathers in class, the children’s motivation and engagement with education increased dramatically. Nurten was chosen as “Teacher of the Year in Turkey” by public vote in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, she was chosen for “Turkey’s 30 Women Leaving a Mark on the Future”.
Marjorie Brown, South Africa
Former human rights activist Marjorie started and still leads the Kids Lit in SA programme, devoted to improving children’s literacy in South Africa. She also popularised South Africa’s participation in the international Kids’ Lit Quiz. Children representing South Africa have won the competition three times over the past 13 years, despite them coming from the poorest country to participate.
To improve literacy among underprivileged South African children, Marjorie introduced the Phendulani literacy quiz for poorly resourced schools. The pupils in these schools do not have functioning school libraries, so the books Marjorie sends out for the quiz are often all there is to read. South Africa’s Department of Education is now piloting the Phendulani quiz in 45 new reading clubs across the country from 2018.
Luis Miguel Bermudez Gutierrez, Colombia
Luis teaches in one of the poorest areas of Columbia’s capital city Bogota, battling gun violence, poverty and sexual abuse. Teenage pregnancies and homophobic bullying were particularly prevalent in his school.
In 2014, Luis began to change the school curriculum. He integrated the teaching of sexual citizenship and a new approach to diversity. In that year, the school recorded 70 teenage pregnancies. By the third quarter of 2017, the figure fell to zero. For his work, Luis was recognised as Best Teacher of Colombia in 2017.
Jesus Insilada, Philippines
Born into a poor farming community, Jesus now advocates for the rights of indigenous people and practises culture-based teaching to boost engagement in education.
Students learn through traditional dances, songs, local games and crafts that give context to their studies. Test scores have revealed that at least 87 percent of his pupils achieved their age-expected grades through culture-based teaching. He has received many national and international awards for teaching, and also for his writing and support for indigenous culture.
Glenn Lee, USA
Former electrical engineer Glenn became a teacher 24 years ago with a mission to make children passionate about STEM subjects. He started using robotics to give students real-world applications of what they were learning. Through his efforts, including personally bringing in $5m in grants, there are today more than 750 robotics programs for students across Hawaii.
The Waialua Robotics Program started by Glenn serves as a model for engaging students in STEM subjects and teaching the skills necessary for graduates to succeed in college and careers. Most recently, Glenn has been working with the Hawaii State Legislature in 2016 and 2017 to introduce a bill to create a STEM Innovation Centre.
Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima, Brazil
Diego has transformed a school rife with drugs and violence into a lively and active school with strong community links. When Diego arrived to lead his school, it was notorious for being the most violent and drug-riddled in the area with the highest dropout rates. Parents were afraid to enrol their children there and staff turnover was high.
Diego has transformed the school by involving students, parents, teachers, school staff and the community. Local businesses and nearby schools were persuaded to donate materials to refurbish the building. Parents, staff and students worked together to paint and maintain the buildings. A student card system to track attendance has reduced truancy. The opening of the school library to the community, which has attracted donations from across the city, has improved student literacy.
Koen Timmers, Belgium
After learning about the situation in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, Koen Timmers co-founded a project that shipped laptops, solar panels and internet infrastructure to the camp so that refugees could learn about web design. 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 and have Skype calls with African refugees every day.
Aiming to help shape global citizens, in 2017 Koen launched three global, student-centred projects in which 250 schools in 66 countries took part. Over a four-week period, students focussed on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Students had to research, brainstorm, discuss, present and share their findings via weekly videos. The projects changed students’ mindset, offered a platform to teachers to exchange and discover new approaches and encouraged empathy in classrooms.
Eddie Woo, Australia
Eddie is an enthusiastic maths teacher, well known for his “WooTube” video channel which has 182,000 subscribers worldwide. On discovering that teachers in training found his videos an invaluable window into a real classroom, he created a separate channel where teachers can share their expertise.
Eddie’s Maths PASS (Peer-Assisted Study Sessions) program in his schools sees Year 11 students mentoring struggling Year 7 students to help them to rebuild confidence, develop understanding and improve skill in mathematics. The program has produced measurable improvements in the Year 7s’ numeracy, and it has also encouraged their mentors to pursue careers in education.
Andria Zafirakou, UK
Andria teaches in an ethnically diverse school in northwest London where 35 languages are spoken. Pupils come from some of the poorest families in Britain, some sharing a house with five other families. Others are exposed to gang violence in an area that has the third highest murder rate in the UK.
By taking the time to learn the basics of every language spoken in the school and redesigning the curriculum, Andria has been able to connect with marginalised students who do not speak English. She helped a music teacher launch a Somali school choir, while introducing real life situations in maths classes helped her school’s maths department win the TES 2017 maths team of the year. Thanks to her efforts, Andria’s school is now in the top 1 to 5% of the country in terms of qualifications and accreditations.
Barbara Zielonka, Norway
Barbara is an English teacher who uses digital technology to help low-achieving students succeed. In a project called “Genius Hour”, students create their own research topic, collect data online, contact experts via Facebook or Twitter, create online questionnaires and share their results with an international audience. Barbara’s students are fluent in video editing, content curation, podcasting, mind mapping and collaboration.
In May 2017, Barbara received Norway’s prestigious Gullepleprisen 2017 prize, awarded once a year to an educator who has demonstrated the effective use of IT in teaching. In June 2017, she was the only European teacher to receive the Great Global Project Challenge Grant prize, for her latest project called “The Universe is Made of Tiny Stories”.
The winner of the 2018 Global Teacher Prize will be announced during the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on 18th March.