The Global Teacher Prize, organised by the Varkey Foundation, today announced the 10 teachers from around the world on its shortlist to win the $1m prize in March. Read their stories and watch their inspiring videos
1. Hanan Al Hroub – Palestine
Hanan Al Hroub, from Samiha Khalil High School, Al-Bireh, Palestine grew up in the Palestinian refugee camp, Bethlehem, where she was regularly exposed to acts of violence. She went into primary education after her children were left deeply traumatised by a shooting incident they witnessed on their way home from school. With so many troubled children in the region, Palestinian classrooms can be tense environments. Hanan embraces the slogan ‘No to Violence’ and uses a specialist approach she developed herself, detailed in her book, ‘We Play and Learn’. She focuses on developing trusting, respectful, honest and affectionate relationships with her students and emphasises the importance of literacy. Her approach has led to a decline in violent behaviour in schools where this is usually a frequent occurrence; she has inspired her colleagues to review the way they teach, their classroom management strategies and the sanctions they use.
2. Ayub Mohamud – Nairobi
Ayub Mohamud is a business studies teacher in Nairobi who has a passion for innovation, design and social entrepreneurship. He is active in his community and the teaching profession, particularly in dealing with religious extremism. He is the patron of a grassroots initiative for youth empowerment and created Teachers Against Violent Extremism to develop initiatives with other teachers for combating radicalisation in Kenyan schools. Ayub had the opportunity to talk at the Global Counter Terrorism Forum in Abu Dhabi.
3. Robin Chaurasiya – India
Robin Chaurasiya, founded and teaches at Kranti, a nonprofit that empowers marginalised girls from Mumbai’s red-light areas to become agents of social change. Her students, girls aged 12-20, include survivors of trafficking and daughters of sex workers. She has formalised a Social Justice curriculum at Kranti covering the key issues that affect the girls’ lives, such as caste, class, religion, environment and healthcare. The school week consists of Music Mondays, TED Talk Tuesdays, Worldly Wednesdays, Thinking Thursdays and Field Trip Fridays. Weekends include plays, films, and exhibits, as well as required volunteer work in an NGO of their choice. Robin’s students, called ‘Revolutionaries’ (Krantikaries), are turned into teachers and community leaders, creating a ripple effect of children teaching each other. They have conducted workshops at schools and NGOs for more than 100,000 students and parents, and delivered 11 TEDx talks around the world. They have also written a play about their experiences, which they performed across the US and even at Facebook’s and Google’s headquarters.
4. Aqeela Asifi – Pakistan
Aqeela Asifi, from the Girls Middle School #02, Camp Shash, Kot Chandna refugee village, was born into a liberal family in Kabul and educated at a time when education was free and open to all. She was forced to leave Afghanistan in 1992 and became a refugee at the Kot Chandna camp in Pakistan. She set up a school in a tent and worked hard to convince parents of the importance of education. Now there are nine schools with 1,500 students in the camp. They include local Pakistani children, and 900 of her pupils are girls. Her students have gone on to become doctors, engineers, government officials and even teachers in Afghanistan. She was recently honoured by the UNCHR.
5. Joe Fatheree – USA
Joe Fatheree from Effingham High School, Effingham, Illinois, USA. When Joe began teaching almost thirty years ago, he quickly found that his 16- to 18-year-old at-risk students did not respond to the methods he had learned in teacher training. So he asked the students how they wanted to be taught. His students now learn by producing music, books and short films on topics like poverty, death, bullying, homelessness and human rights. His students also use 3D printing and drone technology in their projects, build educational games for young children using Minecraft, and engage in public speaking. He developed an entrepreneurism programme to encourage students to move back home after graduation and start their own businesses. The framework is now being used in over thirty cities. Joe was named Illinois Teacher of the Year in 2007 and was awarded the NEA’s National Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009. He led several initiatives that have impacted education policy and practice on national and state level.
6. Kazuya Takahashi – Japan
Kazuya Takahashi is a teacher at the Kogakuin University Junior and Senior High School, Tokyo, Japan. Kazuya Takahashi, of Toshimaku, Tokyo, studied Learning Sciences in the US and has since then consistently innovated in the way he teaches, making full use of Lego-based instruction. He has led class discussions on what language means for humans and compared human language to chimpanzee language. He held the very first Space Elevator competition for high school students, with the help of the Japan Space Elevator Association and JAXA. Many of his students to go on to study in the US and Canada and has mentored others with behavioural issues to read difficult subjects like philosophy. In his current school he has also started a project in which students go to Indonesia and tackle issues with a local social entrepreneur – all aimed at developing global citizenship skills. He also holds monthly workshops for his colleagues to share the latest best practice theories.
7. Maarit Rossi – Finland
Maarit Rossi, a maths teacher at Kartanonranta School, Finland. Maarit was concerned that many students would rather do almost anything than learn maths. She believed the problem was entirely due to the way mathematics is commonly taught. So she began to develop a new method that teaches mathematics by asking students to collaborate in groups and solve real-life problems. Her school consistently ranks above average in Finland – and Finland tops many PISA studies. Her school girls do better in mathematics than boys. Maarit has co-authored nine mathematics textbooks and several books about maths education. She was involved in shaping the 2004 national curriculum and created modern teaching materials for STEM subjects on behalf of the Economic Information Bureau. In order to share her approach even further, she developed her ‘Paths to Math’ e-learning programme.
8. Michael Soskil – USA
Michael Soskil from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, USA. Michael is the head teacher of Wallenpaupack South Elementary School in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania and recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. Having looked at neuroscience research, he bases his approach to teaching on the finding that learning is stored in long-term memory when a child emotionally connects with what is being taught. He aims to facilitate emotional connections through project- and problem-based learning activities and by allowing students to feel the joy that comes through helping others. Michael has designed numerous projects where his classes have collaborated with and learned from students and experts around the world. In recognition of his experience in this area, he was invited to speak at the United Nations Social Innovation Summit and Social Good Summit conferences.
9. Richard Johnson – Australia
Richard Johnson, a science teacher at Rostrata Primary School, Perth, Western Australia. helped to set up the first Australian school science laboratory specifically designed for young children at Rostrata Primary in Western Australia. His innovative teaching methods and STEM lab have children using robotics, 3D printing and augmented reality, often supported by crowdfunding and grants from local businesses. He has won the Department of Education award for Excellence and Innovation in 2008, the Premier’s Science Award in 2012 and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science Teaching: Primary in 2013. His school has achieved consistent improvement in science since 2006, and the methods are being copied by schools and teachers across Australia and around the world.
10. Colin Hegarty – UK
Colin Hegarty, from Preston Manor School in Wembley, north-west London, has been shortlisted after creating more than a thousand online maths videos that have been viewed almost five million times. Mr Hegarty’s videos are part of a “flipped classroom” approach in which pupils familiarise themselves with subject content before their lessons, then use the lessons to discuss and extend what they have learned. He started creating online teaching aids to help one of his students, who had to move abroad to care for his father but wanted to continue his studies. Since then he has created 1,500 videos. Last year Mr Hegarty received the National Teacher of the Year award from Prime Minister David Cameron.