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London teacher in contention for million-dollar Global Teacher Prize

Andria Zafirakou makes final 10 of Global Teacher Prize after impressing with her work in one of the poorest parts of the UK

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Andria Zafirakou makes final 10 of Global Teacher Prize after impressing with her work in one of the poorest parts of the UK

An art and textiles teacher from London is among the 10 finalists for the million-dollar Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018.

Andria Zafirakou, of Alperton Community School in Brent, north-west London, was one of more than 30,000 contenders from 173 countries. They were initially whittled down to a shortlist of 50, before the final 10 was announced today in a special video message by philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

The Global Teacher Prize, now in its fourth year, was set up to recognise an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, and to shine a spotlight on the crucial role teachers play in society.

A million-dollar prize

Ms Zafirakou (pictured) teaches in one of the most deprived parts of the UK and some of her pupils are exposed to gang violence. A 2011 school census highlighted that 149 languages were spoken in the area.

As a member of the school’s senior leadership team, Ms Zafirakou has transformed its approach to reaching isolated young people.

Having quickly realised that a one-size-fits-all curriculum would not engage all of her students, she set about redesigning it from top to bottom, with the help of colleagues.

Ms Zafirakou has taken the time to understand students’ lives beyond school by visiting their homes, riding with them on the bus and standing at the school gates to welcome pupils as they arrive at the start of the day. She has also learned greetings in many of the 35 languages spoken at her school, and brought local police officers, mental health workers and teachers together to work on helping students succeed.

Alperton Community School is now in the top few per cent of the country in terms of qualifications and accreditations, with much of that success credited to Andria, whose work is featured in this video.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize, said: “I want to congratulate Andria Zafirakou for being selected as a top-10 finalist from such a huge number of talented and dedicated teachers. I hope her story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the UK and throughout the world every day.”

The Global Teacher Prize finalists

  • Nurten Akkuş: a pre-school teacher and principal at Ayvacık Pre-School, Samsun, Turkey;
  • Marjorie Brown, who teaches history at Roedean School, Johannesburg,  South Africa;
  • Luis Gutierrez, a social science teacher at the Gerardo Paredes School, Suba, Bogotá Colombia;
  • Jesus Insilada, who teaches English and creative writing at Caninguan National High School in Lambunao, Iloilo, Philippines;
  • Glenn Lee, an engineering and technology teacher from Waialua High & Intermediate School, Waialua, Hawaii, United States;
  • Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima, director of Darcy Ribeiro Municipal School, in São José do Rio Preto, São Paulo, Brazil;
  • Koen Timmers, a lecturer at PXL university college in Hasselt and a computer science teacher at CVO De Verdieping school in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium;
  • Eddie Woo, a mathematics teacher from Cherrybrook Technology High School, Sydney, Australia;
  • Barbara Anna Zielonka, an English teacher at Nannestad High School, Norway.  

The award will be presented at a ceremony in Dubai on Sunday 18 March, at the Global Education and Skills Forum, with the winner receiving a US$1 million (£720,000).

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