Dubai's $1 million Global Teacher Prize: Who are the 10 finalists?

From the Bronx to the barrios, 'real superheroes' from ordinary schools across the globe will be recognised tonight

A 'superhero' teacher will be selected from a shortlist of 10 inspirational people on Sunday night to become the recipient of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize.

The winner will be chosen from an original list of 10,000 candidates.

The prize — launched five years ago by the Varkey Foundation and held annually in Dubai — will be given out by actor Hugh Jackman and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

Here are brief biographies on the 10 finalists.

The biographies and pictures are courtesy of the Global Teacher Prize and Varkey Foundation.

Andrew Moffat, Parkfield Community School, Birmingham, UK

Mr Moffat teaches at Parkfield Community School near the deprived Bordesley Green area of Birmingham, which is home to a considerable mix of ethnicities and where more than 90 per cent of pupils speak English as an additional language. His 'No Outsiders' programme teaches inclusiveness and diversity.

Mr Moffat has extended this ethos to parents, through the use of parent / child workshops, and across the UK, with schools in many cities also adopting No Outsiders. He now also uses the programme as a tool to reduce potential for radicalisation.

His work is crucial at a time when hate crimes in England and Wales are rising — figures more than doubled between 2012/13 and 2017/18 to 94,098 recorded offences.

In November 2017, Mr Moffat was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth for services to equality and diversity in education.

Daisy Mertens, De Vuurvogel, Helmond, Netherlands

Winner of the 2016 National Primary Teacher of the Year in the Netherlands, Ms Mertens comes from a small village in the south of the country. Raised in a one-parent family, she often found home life difficult, but always felt safe and free at school. After qualifying as a teacher, she chose to work at a school in a deprived area.

Ms Mertens now works in a large community-based school with 440 pupils representing up to 30 different nationalities. Pupils with severe learning issues are mixed in with gifted children and her pupils face prejudice from others in wealthier areas and have poorer language skills than the average.

Ms Mertens created the High5 initiative, which empowers children to come up with new ideas to encourage the school community to improve the quality of education. The higher purpose is that children become happier, better learners — and ultimately better citizens.

Debora Garofalo, EMEF Almirante Ary Parreiras, São Paulo, Brazil

Ms Garofalo overcame a challenging childhood of poverty and prejudice to train as a teacher. She first worked in Human Resources in the banking industry to raise enough money to undertake teacher training. This gave her great insight into the skills pupils need to succeed in the modern workplace.

When she arrived at her school, on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, and near four of the country’s notorious favelas, Ms Garofalo realised that the pupils were not receiving an education in technology which would equip them to thrive in the world of work.

The pupils began with simple projects, and over time, Ms Garofalo has introduced the fundamentals of electronics, and then moved on to more complex robotics. More than 2,000 pupils have been involved in the programme, and have created prototypes of everything from robots and carts, to boats and planes. More than 700kg of rubbish has been turned into something new.

Hidekazu Shoto, Ritsumeikan Primary School, Kyoto, Japan

Mr Hidekazu has found a way to teach fluency in English without the need for foreign travel.

In his youth, Mr Hidekazu wanted to study abroad to become a better English speaker, but financial circumstances did not permit it. After becoming a teacher, he set on a path to teach advanced English language skills without foreign study.

A large part of Mr Hidekazu’s approach is informed by tools such as Skype and Minecraft, which enable communication in English with pupils in other countries. His pupils make friends quickly and have collaborated with primary school pupils in up to 10 foreign countries to create buildings in Minecraft.

His 11-year-olds are scoring higher than the average 14-year-olds in other schools. While about 30 per cent of Japanese pupils say they like English, in Mr Hidekazu’s class the proportion is 94 per cent — which he puts down to the social and tech aspects of his teaching.

from left to right: Melissa Salguero, Public School 48 Joseph R. Drake, Bronx, USA;  Peter Tabichi, Keriko Secondary School, Nakuru, Kenya; Swaroop Rawal, Lavad Primary School, Gujarat and various other schools, India; Vladimer Apkhazava, Chibati Public School, Georgia; Yasodai Selvakumaran, Rooty Hill High School, NSW, Australia
From left to right: Melissa Salguero, Bronx, New York, US; Peter Tabichi, Nakuru, Kenya; Swaroop Rawal, Gujarat, India; Vladimer Apkhazava, Chibati Public School, Georgia; Yasodai Selvakumaran, NSW, Australia

Martin Salvetti, Technical Secondary School No 5, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mr Salvetti did not plan to be a teacher, but the profession found him anyway. He began tutoring to earn extra money to get through university, and kept on going.

He returned to his own school to tutor and found himself a similar age to his pupils. This meant he could empathise and saw opportunities to improve their education experience. He set up a weekend football club involving pupils and staff.

Acknowledging the benefits of Mr Salvetti’s learning through doing approach, the school engaged with an arts programme, organised by a group of charities. Through this, they won funding to support a radio and cinema project, and a band. Despite many challenges, the radio project persisted, and in 2007, Salvetti and his pupils won a national competition for their work.

Since then, the radio station has thrived. It now broadcasts 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Schools come from across the region to visit and learn from Mr Salvetti’s pupils.

Melissa Salguero, Public School 48 Joseph R Drake, Bronx, US

When Ms Salguero first started teaching at Public School 48, Joseph R Drake Elementary School, the school hadn’t had a music programme for more than 30 years. The school is in the most at-risk area for children in New York City, where more than 59 per cent of children live in poverty and 29 per cent per cent of families live on less than $15,000 (Dh55,000) per year. However, Ms Salguero entered contests, wrote grant applications, and eventually raised enough money and instruments to start the school’s first ever band programme — which was a huge success.

When her programme lost $30,000 due to a theft, her class wrote a song and music video that went viral. It caught the attention of chat show star Ellen DeGeneres, resulting in an invite to her show, where she presented the school with brand new instruments and $50,000.

Peter Tabichi, Keriko Secondary School, Nakuru, Kenya

Mr Tabichi is a science teacher who gives away 80 per cent of his monthly income to help the poor. His dedication, hard work and passionate belief in his pupils’ talent has led his poorly-resourced school in remote rural Kenya to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions.

Turning lives around in a school with only one computer, poor internet, and a pupil-teacher ratio of 58:1, is no easy task.

Ms Tabichi and four colleagues also give low-achieving pupils one-on-one tuition in Maths and Science outside class and on the weekends, where he visits pupils’ homes and meets their families to identify the challenges they face.

By making his pupils believe in themselves, Ms Tabichi has dramatically improved their achievement and self-esteem. Enrolment has doubled to 400 over three years, and cases of indiscipline have fallen from 30 per week to just three.

Swaroop Rawal, Lavad Primary School, Gujarat, India

Ms Rawal never intended to become a teacher, but after becoming a mother and then returning to study at the age of 37, she realised she had something unique to offer. She saw first-hand how some methods of teaching can create stress in children, which then makes its way into the family. Ms Rawal went into teaching to accomplish two goals: to help make children more resilient through life skills education, and to bring new methods to teaching that would help pupils and their teachers reflect, imagine and build their sense of personal worth and agency.

Ms Rawal has also contributed to the understanding of teaching in modern India. She has become a teacher-trainer, presenting papers at more than 40 conferences, and having articles published in international peer-review journals.

Vladimer Apkhazava, Chibati Public School, Georgia

Mr Apkhaza teaches in a very poor region of Georgia where economic pressures are high. The parents of many pupils have had to move to foreign countries for work, financially supporting their families from afar. As a result, many of Mr Apkhaza’s pupils miss breakfast in the morning, and sometimes the school has to call an ambulance in the case of starving children. Many pupils subsequently give up their studies and move to Turkey in search of jobs.

His work tackling child labour even received resistance from officials at one point, though his cause was helped by up by television journalists and began a public debate. He won Georgia's National Teacher Award in 2017.

He has fundraised from the private sector to pay for extra resources and summer camps, and has even given a home to eight teenage boys who had to leave their parents due to domestic violence.

Yasodai Selvakumaran, Rooty Hill High School, New South Wales, Australia

Ms Selvakumaran is recognised in Australia as an outstanding teacher and leader. A Tamil Sri Lankan-born Australian, Ms Selvakumaran’s parents left Sri Lanka among growing civil tensions, and she grew up in rural and regional Australia before moving to Sydney for university.

Her school has a significant enrolment of 65 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pupils, and the wider community often battles with stereotypes that poorer pupils cannot achieve highly, yet Ms Selvakumaran has achieved consistently high results in a school that performs below the state average.

She won the 2014 Australian Council of Educational Leadership Mary Armstrong Award for Outstanding Young Educational Leader, and the Australian Teaching Fellowship for 2018.

Updated: March 24, 2019 04:39 PM


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