Meet the ten finalists for the UAE's $1 million Global Teacher Prize

The award recognises and celebrates educators that inspiring their pupils and communities

Meet the ten finalists for the UAE's $1 million Global Teacher Prize
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On Sunday, at the Global Education and Skills Forum, one teacher will be awarded $1 million for their work in inspiring pupils and the communities they work in.

The award is intended to celebrate a profession that is often underpaid and under resourced.

Here we meet the ten finalists for the Global Teacher Prize.

Finalist Nurten Akkus. (Handout photo)
Finalist Nurten Akkus. (Handout photo)

Nurten Akkus

Ayvacik Pre-School


In a Turkish region suffering from poor socioeconomic and educational conditions, Nurten founded its first kindergarten. Before this, children had never gone to school and were very poorly socialised.

She worked round the clock to prepare the school for her students. She found materials, painted and cleaned, created a playpark, and areas for sport, hobbies and recreation.

Her students went from hardly being able to introduce themselves to strangers to becoming literate and numerate and their behaviour disorders decreased.

She has also run projects with UNICEF and the Turkish Ministry of National Education. She was named 'Teacher of the Year in Turkey' by public vote in 2015 and 2016.


Finalist Marjorie Brown. (Handout Image)
Finalist Marjorie Brown. (Handout Image)

Marjorie Brown

Roedean School

South Africa

Marjorie is a former human rights activist, teaching history to girls in South Africa and encouraging critical thinking and global citizenship. Her students have gone onto represent South Africa at youth forums, the Paris Climate Talks, and various Ivy League universities.

She popularised the Kids’ Lit Quiz in South Africa. This international competition was founded 26 years ago; South Africa has won three times over the past 13 years, despite its being the poorest country to participate.


Luis Miguel Bermudez Gutierrez. (Handout Image)
Luis Miguel Bermudez Gutierrez. (Handout Image)

Luis Miguel Bermudez Gutierrez

Colegio Gerardo Paredes IED


Luis has taught in one of the poorest areas of Bogota, rise with rife with gun violence, poverty and sexual abuse, since 2010.

When he began he met the challenge on three levels: education for sexuality, the exercise of sexual and reproductive human rights in adolescents and young people; and the curriculum itself.

In 2014, he began to change the school curriculum, using innovative processes in the field of education for sexuality, including the interests and needs of the students.

That programme is credited with cutting teenage pregnancies from 70 in 2014 to zero in 2017.


Finalist Jesus Insilada. (Handout photo)
Finalist Jesus Insilada. (Handout photo)

Jesus Insilada

Alcarde Gustilo Memorial National High School 

From a poor faming family, Jesus is the first member of his family to achieve professional qualifications, and he’s now the leader of a school in the Philippines in a community where over 90 per cent of students belong to Indigenous Peoples groups.

Jesus’s approach to teaching is known as culture-based education (CBE), which he models in his school throughout the curriculum. It is his dream that education throughout his country will become truly inclusive and culture-sensitive. He has received many national and international awards for teaching, and also for his writing and his promotion and support for indigenous culture.


Finalist Glenn Lee. (Handout Photo)
Finalist Glenn Lee. (Handout Photo)

Glenn Lee

Waialua High & Intermediate School 
United States

An electrical engineer 24 years ago, Glenn Lee embarked on a career change to fulfil a desire to become a STEM teacher who could offer students real-world applications of what they were learning.

Lee’s pioneering efforts in building a robotics movement that ignited a passion for STEM throughout the state is a testament to his remarkable successes and selfless dedication to students, educators and the Hawaii STEM community.

“He prepares them for life in the real world," said Randiann Porras-Tang, retired principal of Waialua High.


Finalist Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima. (Handout photo)
Finalist Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima. (Handout photo)

Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima

Escola Municipal Darcy Ribeiro 

When Diego arrived to lead his school it was notorious for being the most violent and drug-ridden in the area with the highest dropout rates. Parents were afraid to enrol their children there and staff turnover was high.

Teachers were discouraged and tended to punish rather than reward their students. He has transformed the school by involving students, parents, teachers, school staff and the community.

He has encouraged local businesses to donate goods, and driven projects in his school and in the wider community.


Finalist Koen Timmers. (Handout photo)
Finalist Koen Timmers. (Handout photo)

Koen Timmers

CVO De Verdieping 

After an emotional 2015 phone call with an outreach worker in the Kakuma refugee camp in Africa, Koen Timmers decided to set up a crowdfunding campaign. The campaign allowed him to ship his own laptop, 20
more devices, solar panels and internet infrastructure to Kakuma.

From then on, refugees were able to begin learning about web design. The teaching resources at Kakuma are now used by 100 global educators and Koen himself, to offer free education to African refugees via Skype.

For this and other projects, he has received support from Dalai Lama, Unesco and National Geographic and Discovery Channel.


Finalist Eddie Woo. (Handout photo)
Finalist Eddie Woo. (Handout photo)

Eddie Woo

Cherrybrook Technology High School 

Eddie is an enthusiastic maths teacher and school head. He is at the forefront of school-based integrated STEM education, having identified that students often experience high school subjects as existing in separate silos with little practical application.

His own 'WooTube' channel on YouTube has become a valuable mechanism for students to direct their own learning at a pace that suits them and now has over 60,000 subscribers around the world.

Eddie is well known across Australia as an advocate for teachers and their profession.


Finalist Andrea Zafirakou. (Handout photo)
Andria Zafirakou was awarded the $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize in Dubai on Sunday. (Handout photo)

Andria Zafirakou

Alperton Community School 
United Kingdom

Andria teaches in the inner city borough of Brent, one of the most ethnically diverse places in the country and 130 languages are spoken in its schools. Its pupils come from some of the poorest families in Britain, many sharing one house with five other families, many exposed to gang violence.

Learning the basics of many of the 35 languages in Alperton’s pupil population, Andria has been able to reach out to her once marginalised students to earn their trust and, crucially, establish relationships with their parents. Thanks to her efforts, Alperton is now in the top 5 per cent of the country in terms of qualifications and accreditations.


Finalist Barbara Anna Zielonka. (Handout Image)
Finalist Barbara Anna Zielonka. (Handout Image)

Barbara Anna Zielonka

Nannestad High School 

Barbara is a teacher of English in both vocational and academic classes in a high school with a multicultural student population.

In her teaching career, she has developed strategies and techniques that help low-achieving students succeed, with an emphasis on technology.

Her students are fluent in video editing, content curation, podcasting, mind mapping, collaboration, and screencasting, and proficient in web searching and use of digital platforms for learning.

In May 2017, Barbara received Norway’s prestigious Gullepleprisen 2017 from the Norwegian Educational Data Society (NPeD), which celebrates the teaching of IT.