Daisy Mertens

De Vuurvogel, Helmond, Netherlands

@daisym41

Daisy  Mertens

Winner of the 2016 National Primary Teacher of the Year in the Netherlands, Daisy originally comes from a small village in the south of the country. Raised in a one-parent family, she often found home life difficult, but always felt safe and free at school –and with the help of her teachers, she acquired a sense of direction and self-actualisation at a young age. After qualifying as a teacher, she made a conscious choice to work at a school in a deprived area.

Daisy now works in a large community-based school with 440 students and up to 30 different nationalities represented. The pupils have huge learning differences –children with severe learning problems are mixed in with gifted children –and in addition,her pupils face prejudice from students in wealthier areas, have poorer language skills than the average, and struggle to realise their life chances.

At the heart of Daisy’s teaching is the equal participation of children in planning their own learning. This enables them to ignite their inner motivation and reflectively formulate short-and long-term goals, making progress by self-regulation of their own personal growth. Amongst other things, this means carrying out their own research projects on a meaningful topic or theme –for instance, designing a sustainable amusement park. Projects on culture and religion have also had a huge effecton widening pupils’ knowledge. When students were asked to design a single house of prayer for the six major world religions, it emerged that many had never seen the inside of a church –so they arranged tovisitonewith a local pastor, where the children got the chance to ask all the questions they wanted.

Since winning the National Primary Teacher award, Daisy has given presentations at various teacher training colleges across the country as well as lecturing at the National Teacher Congress. She has also been the recipient of a Learning Development Fund from the Ministry of Education,Culture and Science. Her dream is for child participation to become the new norm in every school around the world, with children as equal partners in dialogue, in the context of a community-driven school.With Global Teacher Prize funds, she would expand and promote her High5 initiative, which empowers children to come up with fresh approaches to encourage the school community to improve the quality of education. The higher purpose is that children become happier, better learners –and therefore ultimately better citizens.

During Daisy’s teacher training, an influential instructor asked her: “What are your most important values in teaching?” The answers she has found still guide her every day: the ability to express and communicate trust, self-confidence, reflection, autonomy, and cooperation.