We’ve all had teachers who have inspired us, who have made a difference to our lives. Teachers have the power to make or break lives. A great lesson can inspire a passion for a subject that lasts a lifetime, while lacklustre teaching can kill any desire for learning. Teachers who make a significant difference in their students’ lives – sometimes against all odds – deserve to be celebrated. The Global Teacher Prize does just that, awarding $1 million to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession. These are the Top 10 Finalists for the 2017 Global Teacher Prize.
Salima Begum – Pakistan
Salima teaches at the Elementary College for Women in Gilgit, Pakistan. She has helped create awareness amongst parents regarding girls’ education and its benefits. To engage her students, Salima believes that classroom activities should correspond closely to real-life situations. Salima has made a major contribution to teacher training, instructing more than 7,000 teachers across her province, and 8,000 more throughout Pakistan. If she were to win the prize, she says she would donate the money to a fund to support girls’ education in Pakistan.
David Calle – Spain
David is a maths and science teacher based in Madrid. He founded Unicoos to support children’s education beyond the classroom. His website videos have been viewed by more than 30 million students. Unicoos is free to use, so if David were to win the prize he would invest it in expanding the platform, producing more videos in multiple languages, while maintaining free access.
Raymond Chambers – UK
When Computer Science graduate Ray began teaching, he found the lessons prepared for students dull and uninspiring. He started developing new software for learning using Microsoft Kinect. He was encouraged by a leap in both engagement and academic achievement from his computing students, so he decided to share this work and best practice with other teachers. Ray’s YouTube channel has now had more than 250,000 hits. The BBC asked him to contribute its Microbit resources which are issued to teachers nationally in the UK. If he were to win the prize, he would use the funds to support charitable work improving computer science education in the UK and Africa.
Wemerson da Silva Nogueira – Brazil
Science teacher Wemerson began his career in a suburb with a very high crime rate. Many of his students were involved in crime and the school had a drop-out rate of 50%. Wemerson led a social project called “Young Scientists: Designing a New Future”. One of this project’s activities involved studying the periodic table by researching the polluted mud and waters of the nearby Rio Doce. The “Young Scientists” activities enabled the school to rescue 90% of students from the world of drugs and crime. Today Wemerson’s school is considered the best in the city. If he were to win the prize, Wemerson would use the money to create a foundation supporting the training of young teachers.
Marie-Christine Ghanbari Jahromi – Germany
Marie-Christine uses action-oriented learning methods, such as her ‘Sportpatenproject’ mentoring programme, to increase the self-esteem, motivation and empathy of her students. The participatory and collaborative nature of her sports project has helped refugee children in Germany (from countries like Iran) integrate more readily into German society. If she were to win the prize, Marie-Christine would use the funds to develop online services to enable mentoring and partnering between students in developed and developing nations.
Tracy-Ann Hall – Jamaica
Tracy-Ann went through her own school years with undiagnosed dyslexia. She left school to train as an automotive technician. Training other mechanics gave her a lifelong love of teaching. She enrolled at the vocational teachers’ college in Jamaica and after three years graduated top of her class. In her first teaching role she took a group of boys who had been written off educationally. Tracy-Ann transformed their performance and ambitions. One went on to become head boy, others joined the school choir. She also started and oversaw a programme for her class to feed street people, launch a junior automotive club and work on the school magazine. If she were to win the prize, she would buy resources for her school and the auto club she runs, as well as supporting various local families and children’s charities.
Maggie MacDonnell – Canada
Teaching in an environment as harsh as the Canadian Arctic is tough. Maggie has worked as a teacher in a village called Salluit, the second northernmost Inuit community in Quebec. Maggie’s whole approach has been about turning students from “problems” to “solutions”. Initiatives include her students running a community kitchen, attending suicide prevention training and partnering with the day care centre. In addition, Maggie has created a life skills programme specifically for girls to combat the complex gender issues in the community: teenage pregnancies are common, high levels of sexual abuse exist, and gender roles often burden young girls with domestic duties. If Maggie wins the prize she will establish a non-profit to support youth engagement, culture preservation and global citizenship.
Ken Silburn – Australia
Science teacher Ken was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Secondary Science Teaching in 2015. It’s the highest teaching honour of its type in Australia. Many of Ken’s students have received scholarships to study science at university, and one class was placed first in Australia in their category of the International Science Championships. In his lessons Ken uses a variety of multimedia projects together with integration of wider issues such as environmental science and sustainability. As a participant in NASA’s India Spaceward Bound Program, he has also delivered science workshops and training courses to Indian teachers, and has recorded online lessons for India’s National Institute for Open Schooling. If he wins the prize, Ken will use the funds to devise a training program for teachers in developing countries.
Michael Wamaya – Kenya
Dance teacher Michael runs a ballet school in the heart of the notorious Kibera slum in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. Home to 700,000 people, Kibera is an unlikely setting for a ballet school. With the help of Michael’s dedicated teaching, under the tin roofs of community buildings, students have become accomplished dancers, winning scholarships to further their education. Over Christmas some performed The Nutcracker at the Kenya National Theatre. With Michael’s tutoring and mentorship, this alternative arts project has provided a safe space for orphans and vulnerable children from the slums to grow, develop their skills and access opportunities. Michael’s encouragement of pride and self-awareness amongst his young students has also helped turn around school dropout rates and teenage pregnancy rates for those attending his lessons.
Boya Yang – China
When Chinese parents move to cities for new employment opportunities, they often have to leave their children behind, to be eligible for education and other services. It can be a shattering experience for many children. Boya has set up a centre in her school where teenage girls’ can seek advice from psychologists and other professionals. If awarded the prize, she would use the funds to invite local and overseas students and specialists to participate in this programme.