Exceptional Teachers: Finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2017 (Part 2)

Mar 14, 2017 11:21:01 AM Nana Huang Education Trends

The Global Teacher Prize is an annual 1 million dollar award presented by the Varkey Foundation to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession. The announcement of Top 10 Finalists this year has drawn attention to the fundamental but discussion-worthy question: What impact have these teachers made inside and outside of classroom?

Maggie MacDonnell teaches in a village called Salluit in Quebec, Canada. Prior to that, she spent five years voluntarily working in Sub Saharan Africa, largely in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention. Salluit, with a population of just over 1,300 and winter temperatures being minus 25C, can not be reached by road, only by air. Facing the harsh environment and economic and social inequality, significant barriers to education there include the very high teacher turnover rate, gender issues, teen suicides and unhealthy lifestyles (drinking and smoking, even drugs) caused by traumas, etc. Maggie’s goal is to build self-beliefs for her students and give them the tools to be masters of their own destiny. An expression frequently used by her is “When you run by yourself, you go fast, but when you run with others, you can go so far”. Her whole approach has been about turning students from “problems” to “solutions” through initiatives such as “acts of kindness” to meaningfully contribute to the community. Specific examples include running a community kitchen, attending suicide prevention training and hiking through national parks to understand environmental stewardship. In addition, her students, despite their own challenges, have fundraised over $37,000 for Diabetes Prevention. As a great educator, she understands teaching as the ideal way to connect “true northern light” - the youth, understand their realities, and design programs to help them reach their goals.

Wemerson da Silva Nogueira is a science teacher in Nova Venecia, Brazil. He began his work in a suburb with a very high rate of crime and drug abuse, marginalised and feared by all residents. He initiated a social project called “Young Scientists: Designing a New Future”. To make class motivational and entertaining, Wemerson took his students out to research the polluted mud and water conditions of the nearby Rio Doce. Taking samples and analysing chemicals back, combined with interviews with the community and a visit to a university laboratory, his students found and implemented a solution to the main problem for the riverside community. He has made his students realize that the school is a place capable of transforming their lives as well as the community. He is considered very dynamic and creative with his innovative methods going way beyond the walls of a classroom. The “Young Scientists” activities have enabled the school to rescue 90% of students from the world of drugs and crime. Today his school is considered the best in the city, and has contributed to reducing drug trafficking and violence by 70% in the community.

Ken Silburn is science teacher at Casula High School in Australia. Growing up in a low-income family, he is motivated to increase students’ educational prospects, particularly those from modest socioeconomic backgrounds. He is passionate and relentless in teaching. In his lessons Ken uses a variety of multimedia projects together with integration of wider issues such as environmental science and sustainability. He has delivered teacher workshops to over 200 science teachers in Government of India schools, Delhi state government schools and private schools. In addition, he has conducted science workshops for students in 12 schools and also recorded a science lesson for online delivery through India’s National Institute for Open Schooling (NIOS) which would reach over 2.5 million students. He has started the iSTEM (invigorating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program to give talented students across his region the opportunity to participate in science enrichment activities on weekends and school holidays. He believes it is really important to give the next generation the belief and skills to solve global problems. He was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Secondary Science Teaching in 2015, the highest teaching honour of its type in Australia.

Dance teacher Michael Wamaya runs a ballet school in the heart of the notorious Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. He believes the ballet class is for everybody and gives them hope. He combines the teaching of dance skills with social skills, many teachers believing his ballet classes have had a positive effect on students’ wider academic work. His programmes have helped them explore individual human potential and creativity in a much broader sense: who they are, what they think and believe, what they want for their futures, which has brought them a lot of confidence and self-esteem. Michael’s encouragement of pride and self-awareness amongst his young students has also helped turn around dropout rates and teenage pregnancy rates for those attending his lessons. With the help of Michael’s dedicated teaching, students have become accomplished dancers, winning scholarships to further their education.

Boya Yang is a psychologist and teacher from Yunan, China. Under the exam-oriented macro-environment, she has been passionately promoting psychological methods of teaching and holistic psychological support programs for students and their parents to keep them healthy, both physically and mentally. She has incorporated elements of drama, games, and musical instruments into her classes, which students may show interest in. She says she loves the teaching profession because of its freedom and infinite possibilities. Her colleagues mention Boya’s deep connection with her students, and they believe she could achieve anything with the combination of her sincere love for students and her professional qualities. She has led a group of local teachers to implement psychology education for vulnerable children, encourage student active participation in class, and facilitate parent-child communication. Her team has reached and benefited more than 50,000 teenagers, teachers, and parents.


See more stories here http://www.globalteacherprize.org/2017-finalists/