Meet the 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2018

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Right to education, Teachers and learning

What connects these two women? One works in a village so deep into the Canadian Arctic that you can’t reach it by road.

The other is a former Palestinian refugee who offers specialist care to refugee children exposed to violence.

They’re the last two winners of the annual Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize, which comes with a $1 million award.

The 10 finalists for the 2018 prize were announced today. In a video message, Bill Gates – Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – said: “Research has shown that having a great teacher can be the most important factor that determines whether students get a great education.”

The Global Teacher Prize was launched in 2014 and attracts thousands of nominations each year. It 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 winner will be announced on March 18 during the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

Here is a look at the finalists for this year’s title.

Nurten Akkus

Nurten Akkuş (Turkey)

In a Turkish county suffering from poor socio-economic and educational conditions, Nurten founded its first kindergarten. Before this, children had never gone to school and were very poorly socialised. 

She worked round the clock to prepare the school for her students. Her students went from hardly being able to introduce themselves to strangers to becoming literate and numerate. 

Marj Brown

Marjorie Brown (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 on to represent South Africa at youth forums, the Paris Climate Talks and various Ivy League universities.

She also popularised the Kids’ Lit Quiz in South Africa. This international competition was founded 26 years ago - and South Africa has won three times over the past 13 years, despite being the poorest country to participate.

Luis Miguel Bermudez

Luis Miguel Bermudez Gutierrez (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 and sexual abuse.

The neighbourhood and family environment there presented a series of problems related to early pregnancy, sexual and gender-based violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation. He has since dedicated himself to solving this problem. 

Jesus Insilada

Jesus Insilada (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% of students belong to indigenous people's groups.

Through his advocacy work, this high school teacher has promoted education to indigenous communities, encouraging greater participation and far higher rates of enrolment in higher education. 

Glenn Lee

Glenn Lee (United States)

An electrical engineer 24 years ago, Glenn Lee embarked on a career change to fulfil a desire to become a STEM teacher who could offer students real-world applications of what they were learning. 

Committed to rigour and relevance, Lee was determined to learn everything he could about robotics. He fostered partnerships, wrote grants - personally bringing in $5 million - and in 1999 helped launch the state’s first robotics programme in a small isolated, rural community.

Diego Mahfouz Faria

Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima (Brazil)

When Diego arrived to lead his school, it was notorious for being the most violent and drug-ridden in the area with the highest dropout rates. Parents were afraid to enrol their children and staff turnover was high.

Teachers were discouraged and tended to punish rather than reward their students. He has transformed the school by involving students, parents, teachers, school staff and the community.

Koen Timmers

Koen Timmers (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. It allowed him to ship his own laptop, 20 more devices, solar panels and internet infrastructure to Kakuma.

From then on, refugees were able to begin learning 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.

Eddie Woo Geoff Jones

Eddie Woo (Australia)

Eddie is an enthusiastic maths teacher and school head. He is at the forefront of school-based integrated STEM education, having identified that students often experience high school subjects as existing in separate silos with little practical application.

His programme MathsPASS (Peer-Assisted Study Sessions) sees Year 11 students mentoring struggling Year 7 students to help them to rebuild confidence, develop understanding and improve skill in mathematics. 

Andira Zafirakou

Andria Zafirakou (United Kingdom)

Andria teaches at Alperton Community School, a secondary school academy in the inner city London borough of Brent. Brent is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the UK and 130 languages are spoken in its schools. Its pupils come from some of the poorest families in Britain. 

The odds were stacked against her succeeding but Andria has defied them. She works as an art and textiles teacher and as a member of the senior leadership team tasked with earning the trust of her pupils and their families. 

Barbara Zielonka

Barbara Anna Zielonka (Norway)

Barbara is a teacher of English in both vocational and academic classes in a high school with a multicultural student population. She meets all kinds of students, from those who are highly motivated, to those who struggle with English and would like to drop out of high school as soon as possible. 

In her teaching career, she has developed strategies and techniques that help low-achieving students succeed. Her biggest interest is the use of innovative technologies, especially digitally based technology and methods or aids in teaching and learning.

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