In pictures: how school teachers inspire children around the world


Gordon Brown, Right to education, Teachers and learning, The Education Commission

It doesn’t matter how big the classroom, how well equipped it is and how many text books are available.

Children will only learn and reach their full potential if they have quality teachers.

Around the world, millions of inspiring women and men stand up in front of their students every day and act as tutors, mentors and advisors to the next generation.

The global Education Commission put teachers at the heart of its Learning Generation report last year, saying another 25.8 million primary school teachers will be needed by 2030 if every child is to get an education. 

In his introduction to the report Gordon Brown, commission chair and United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, wrote: “Let us remind people of a basic equation: child + teacher equals infinite hope.”

World Teachers Day is celebrated in October each year. In the United States, this week is Teacher Appreciation Week. So here we show how teachers around the world are inspiring children to learn and succeed.

1. Maggie MacDonnell, Canada

Unusual Schools Maggie Mac Donnell

Maggie works with students amid harsh conditions and serious social problems in the Canadian Arctic. Levels of gender equality, suicide and abuse are high but in the midst of this, Maggie teaches. 

In March she was named as the winner of the 2017 Global Teacher Prize.

Maggie – who spent five years volunteering and working in sub-Saharan Africa – has been a teacher in Salluit for the past six years.

“I think, as a teacher in a small Arctic community, your day never ends,” she said. “The school doors may close but the relationship with your students is continuous as you share the community with them.”

2. Salima Begum, Pakistan

Salima teaches at the Elementary College for Women in Gilgit. She has helped to make parents aware about girls’ education and its benefits. She believes classroom activities should correspond closely to real-life situations.

She has trained more than 7000 teachers across her province and 8000 more throughout Pakistan. 

3. Michael Wamaya, Kenya

Michael Wamaya Kenya

Dance teacher Michael runs a ballet school in the heart of the Kibera slum in Nairobi. Many of his students have become accomplished dancers, winning scholarships to further their education.

With Michael’s tutoring and mentorship, this alternative arts project has provided a safe space for orphans and vulnerable children from the slums to grow, develop their skills and access opportunities.

4. Hanan Al Hroub, Palestine

Hanan Al Hroub Palestine Unrwa

Hanan Al Hroub grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp, where she regularly witnessed acts of violence. She decided to become a teacher after her own children were left traumatised when they saw a shooting on the way home from school.

She offers specialist care to refugee students exposed to violence and focuses her work on making her classroom a safe space where she can look after the individual needs of every child.

Hanan’s amazing work was credited when she was named the winner of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize in 2016.  

5. Robin Chaurasiya, India

Robin Chaurasiya India Livemint

After being forced to leave her position in the United States Air Force because of her sexuality, Robin was inspired to create change and embark on teaching.

She founded Kranti, meaning “revolution” in Hindi, a school which empowers girls in Mumbai’s red light district to become agents of social change.

She said: “Kranti empowers girls from Mumbai’s red light district to become agents of social change. We really strive to help these girls find what their passion and talent is and turn that into something that is a sustainable career.”

6. Joe Fatheree, United States

Realising that his students in Illinois weren’t responding well to traditional teaching methods, Joe ripped up the rule book and brought about some groundbreaking changes in his classroom.

His use of hip hop music in lessons saw an improvement in attendance, discipline and achievement. The award-winning teacher also combines project-based learning with business opportunities.

Joe said: “If we can do one thing right in the next 10 years, it’s going to take on the challenge of reforming our education system, helping people understand that one of the greatest jobs that ever happened in the history of humanity was empowering people with the love and the skill of teaching.”

7. Maarit Rossi, Finland

Maarit Rossi Finland Paths To Math

Paths to Math

Maths teacher Maarit gets her students interested and excited about learning by giving them real-life problems to solve in fun ways.

From outdoor activities to working together as a group, her pupils are constantly stimulated – and their school consistently ranks above average in Finnish PISA and national maths tests.

Together with a colleague she met on a teaching exchange, Maarit developed Paths to Math, a website offering maths resources in three different languages.

She said: “Finland has, in 50 years, come from a poor country to a rich country and the reason is because the nation understands the importance of education. It is really something magic when he or she understands the power of the mind.”

8. Kazuya Takahashi, Japan

Kazuya Takahashi Japan Global Teachers Prize

It’s all about creativity and inspiring children through different learning styles in Kazuya’s lessons.

The English teacher even uses Lego as a learning tool in the classroom.

Encouraging global citizenship, Kazuya also organises opportunities for pupils to volunteer abroad. 

He said: “After teaching eight years I realised just teaching on 21st-century skill or teaching active learning is not enough for students. I have to teach from the heart, be empathetic with others.”

9. Elisa Guerra, Mexico

Elisa Guerra Mexico

Elisa Guerra

Elisa Guerra began with a programme for under-fives – and now has schools in three countries, a series of education books and international recognition for her work.

She set up her own preschool in her home city of Aguascalientes in Mexico because she didn’t like what the local school had to offer her own children. Now she’s winning global awards as an educator.

Elisa is working hard to change the face of education in her country – and while she never envisaged herself as a teacher she knows she’s found her vocation.

10. Colin Hegarty, United Kingdom

Colin Hegarty United Kingdom Global Teachers Prize

Award-winning maths teacher Colin has ensured that his subject is accessible to all through his online teaching aids.

The first in his family to go to university, he has introduced a flipped learning approach to his students, where they come prepared for the lesson after watching his series of online tutorials.

The popular teacher’s videos have been viewed five million times over 224 territories and 65 schools have trialled his website. 

The 2015 UK National Teacher of the Year said: “I love being in the school, I love teaching in front of students and seeing their reaction – but I thought there is a real opportunity to have an influence outside my own classroom.”

11. Heba al-Shorafa, Gaza

Heba al Shorafa, who teaches Gaza Strip students with Down’s syndrome, has the condition herself but says it helps her better relate and speak to her students.

Heba, 26, is a former student at the Right to Live centre in Palestine which specialises in caring for more than 400 children with Down’s syndrome in the Gaza Strip.

Now she is helping and teaching Palestinian children with disabilities.

12. Muhammad Ayub, Pakistan

Muhammad Ayub Pakistan

For the past 30 years, “Master” Muhammad Ayub, whose day job includes defusing bombs and putting out fires, has cycled from his office to a makeshift school in a local park to teach children from surrounding slums for free.

In a country where education is underfunded and 24 million children remain out of school, Ayub, 58, is hailed as a hero for providing his charges with hope for a better future.

A former student, Farhat Abbas, said: “I was rescued from the darkness of illiteracy by an angel in the shape of Master Ayub when I was nine and collecting firewood.”

13. Charlo Galay, Philippines

Charlo Galay Philippines World Bank

Charlo Galay, a mobile teacher in the Philippines, hops on his motorbike once a week and heads up into the hills near Butuan City in Mindanao, crossing a rickety bridge to get to a community of indigenous people.

There he teaches out-of-school children and the elderly basic reading, writing and mathematics skills. It’s part of the country’s Alternative Learning System Programme, supported by the World Bank.

Charlo said: “My students don’t stop at learning how to read, how to write, how to count. I want to provide them with the skills to earn a living.”

He was named as the best mobile teacher in the country in 2013.

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