Exceptional Teachers: Finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2017 (Part 1)

Mar 9, 2017 10:40:21 AM Jingtangna 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 exceptional teachers made inside and outside of classroom?


Salima Begum
teaches at the Elementary College for Women in Gilgit, Pakistan. She describes education as a broad concept that teaches a child humility, harmony and love for others. Developing ethical, moral and social values in her students is at the top of her priorities. She asks students to think about how they are going to contribute to local wisdom, connect with people around world, and encourage people to work together for the perfection of humanity. She strongly believes in students ‘constructing’ meaning for themselves through the information they receive, and holds that classroom activities should correspond closely to real-life situations. Students like her interactive and cooperative class. She has also helped create awareness amongst parents regarding girls’ education and its benefits, pioneered a strategy of mentoring in the community and encouraged aspiration in the feeder schools that send pupils to her. In addition, as a teacher educator, she has instructed more than 7,000 teachers across her province, and 8,000 more throughout Pakistan. Under her guidance students have performed exceptionally well in official examinations, resulting in an increase in school enrolment.

David Calle is a math and science teacher based in Madrid, Spain. He established a free website called Unicoos to support education beyond the classroom, which is regarded as an important Spanish-language educational channel with over 100 million visits in five years. A decade ago, he uploaded math, physics and chemistry videos so that students from low socioeconomic background could have access to what was available in the traditional classroom. David believes that his videos are not replacement but supplement to the activities of classroom teachers. As a teacher with 20 years of teaching under his belt, he knows firsthand students’ most frequent doubts, the exercises that give them the most problems and the concepts that they find hard to assimilate. In addition, as an engineer, his classes are practical - he teaches his students that everything around them is science, everything has a link to math, physics, chemistry and technology.

Raymond Chambers is a computer science teacher at Brooke Weston Academy in the United Kingdom. He attaches great importance to increasing student awareness of how to be a good digital citizen and how to protect themselves and their friends online. To make traditional ICT lessons more fun, interactive and inspiring, he developed a new learning software using Microsoft Kinect, and then shared his innovative work and best practice with other ICT teachers on different platforms within the academic community. Children in his class achieved 2nd place at a European coding competition. Ray’s YouTube channel has now had more than 250,000 hits. Both his success and that of his students prompted him to keep pushing the boundaries with technology and try new methods, leading the BBC to ask him to contribute to the BBC Microbit resources issued to teachers nationally. Recognition for his work has included winning the 2013/14 Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator award and in 2015 the UK national teaching award for innovative use of technology.

Marie-Christine Ghanbari Jahromi is from Germany. Considering benefits of physical activities, she uses action-oriented learning methods like ‘Sportpatenproject’ mentoring program to increase the self-esteem, motivation and empathy of her students. Her philosophy is that “It’s not about winning or losing but about rhythm and team spirit”. The participatory and collaborative nature of her sports project has inspired all children, including less athletic ones. Her colleague points out her particular empathy for disadvantaged children. Her combination of research and teaching, sports methods and math innovation wedded to technological tools, has led to the implementation of various social projects in schools, targeting refugee children and socially deprived children, in both Germany and Nigeria, to offer them hope, happiness and equal opportunities. She encourages children to accept and learn from each other as well as appreciate each kind of culture. She loves education, and considers it as a powerful change maker for societies.

Tracy-Ann Hall teaches automotive technology at Jonathan Grant High school in Jamaica, whose role is described as “a woman in men’s world” by the Chair of Governors. Because of undiagnosed dyslexia, she didn’t move on to higher education immediately but instead trained as an automotive technician and worked in a garage. Training other mechanics gave her a lifelong love of teaching. Later she enrolled at the vocational teachers’ college and graduated top of her class. Her integrated and positive approach (e.g. music, field trip) has transformed her first teaching class from a group of students who had previously been written off as ‘poor’ into a great success in terms of both their performance and ambitions. What she teaches is more than knowledge but positive values such as bolstering the community or giving back to  society. She has initiated a program for her class to feed homeless people and hosted summer schools for low-income families. She has also convinced business leaders in the automotive sector to sponsor scholarships for exceptional students. She loves teaching because she can motivate and inspire children who may lose their ways otherwise.