A physical education teacher in Abu Dhabi is in the top 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2021.
Riadh Zammali was selected from more than 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries.
Lamya Butt, a 17-year-old pupil at Dubai Scholars Private School, is also in the top 50 list for the Chegg.org Global Student Prize 2021.
The Global Teacher Prize is an annual award by the Varkey Foundation to an educator who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
Last year, the Varkey Foundation launched the Global Student Prize, a student equivalent of the annual $1 million teacher prize.
The award will highlight the work of exceptional pupils and students making an impact on learning and the world.
It is open to all pupils aged 16 and above and college students enrolled in an academic institution or training programme. Part-time students, as well as students enrolled in online courses, can also apply.
The Varkey Foundation is a global charity set up by entrepreneur Sunny Varkey, who is based in Dubai.
“Congratulations to Riadh and Lamya, for reaching the final 50," Mr Varkey said.
"Their stories clearly highlight the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to global pandemics.
"It is only by prioritising education that we can safeguard all our tomorrows. Education is the key to facing the future with confidence.”
Mr Zammali was always passionate about helping pupils develop their skills and character through physical education.
In the past, he worked in rural areas of Tunisia, where there was little infrastructure or equipment to teach physical education, and launched many school clubs, as well as the first sports associations for girls.
He has worked at the Ghayathi Centre for Special Needs in the UAE, where he introduced innovative new approaches to special education needs sports. His pupils have won more than 100 national and international prizes.
In 2020, Mr Zammali was named the best teacher in Abu Dhabi public centres for people with disabilities and was nominated for the Mohamed bin Zayed Award for Best Gulf Teacher.
If he wins the Global Teacher Prize, he plans to launch an association to support children with disabilities by using smart learning, augmented and virtual reality tools.
Ms Butt, a pupil at Dubai Scholars Private School, enjoys engaging in class discussions and taking on leadership roles.
She is the first teen advisor from the UAE for the United Nations Foundation Girl Up initiative.
She also founded Resilient Together, which works with international philanthropic organisations to provide technological devices to 20,000 pupils in the UAE who had to move to remote learning during the pandemic.
Winning the Global Student Prize would help Ms Butt fund her university studies and expand her initiative into podcasts and videos.
Chegg.org is a supporter of the Global Teacher Prize and partnered with the Varkey Foundation to create the new Global Student Prize.
Lila Thomas, head of Chegg.org, said: “We were so inspired by the achievements of these extraordinary students throughout the world that applied for the inaugural Global Student Prize that Chegg chose to double the value of the prize to $100,000.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is a partner of the Global Teacher Prize.
Stefania Giannini, assistant director general for education at Unesco, said: "Inspirational teachers and extraordinary pupils alike deserve recognition for their commitment to education amid the learning crisis we see today."
Applications and nominations for this year’s teacher and student prizes opened on February 2 and closed on May 16.
Teachers are being assessed on practices, how they innovate to address local challenges, achieve demonstrable learning outcomes, impact the community beyond the classroom, help children become global citizens and improve the profession.
Pupils and students are being assessed on their academic achievements, impact on peers, how they make a difference in their community and beyond, overcome odds and demonstrate creativity.
The top 10 finalists of both the Global Teacher Prize and the Global Student Prize will be announced in October. Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Paris in November.
Last year, Ranjitsinh Disale of India was named the winner of the Global Teacher Prize for his work in improving the educational outcomes of young girls in remote schools.
Mr Disale shared half of the prize money with nine other finalists.