Michael Pope

Zama Middle High School, Yamato, Japan

Michael Pope

Learning has always been Michael’s passion, and initially, his ambition was to be a doctor. However, he was told by his teachers in high school that, with his inquisitive nature, sense of humor and desire to help his peers, he would make a great teacher. At university he had the opportunity to work as a math paraprofessional, and when he first got the chance to teach a class, he was immediately captured by the spark in the eyes of students who understand something for the first time. Finishing his degree in Middle School Education, he began his journey as a teacher, and now works in Department of Defense schools for military families.

Being part of the military community brings its own specific challenges. Military teachers “support the mission” by providing more than just an education, but they also provide a “safe place” for children. Due to deployments to war zones and the underlying stress on the family, individual learning can be challenging. In his science classroom, Michael uses the Global, Local, and Personal model of teaching to help students make connections between topics. Students look for a global connection, discuss how that is affecting their local community or state, and then how it will affect them personally now or in the future. It engages an explorer’s mindset and encourages the natural curiosity of students to find their own answers. This approach resulted in his students transitioning from middle school to high school with a focus, a plan, and often an adult professional as a mentor.

In 2001, Michael was awarded a Fulbright Memorial Teacher scholarship to travel to Japan and explore the educational system there. He and his colleagues we were asked to make two suggestions to the Japanese Ministry of Education that they felt could improve the quality of education for future Japanese students – one of which was the ending of mandatory Saturday school. Upon his return in 2003 to teach in Japan, he learned that suggestion had been put into law in 2002 – one of his biggest contributions to public education.

Michael is now a two-time DoDEA State-Level Finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science (2015 and 2017). In 2017, he was awarded an IREX Teacher for Global Classroom Fellowship to Colombia, and in 2018, a National Education Association Foundation Global Learning Fellowship to South Africa. If he wins the Global Teacher Prize, Michael wants to use the funds to help local empowerment programs – for instance, the entrepreneur program in his host school in Bucaramanga, Colombia, and the Butterfly art therapy project to reach students in township communities in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the next 10 years, he would like to develop a global education trust to fund student and community empowering projects internationally and locally.