“It has been a hard year, a long year, and it is just nice to able to see this positive recognition for the teaching profession.”
Maths teacher Jamie Frost, who has seen his work celebrated on a global stage, says it is important to shine a light on the work teachers have done during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He may have missed out on the Global Teacher Prize, but the London teacher still found himself winning twice over on the night.
Dr Frost, who runs the website DrFrostMaths, won the Covid Hero award and a prize of $45,000 (£34,000). This special award recognises a teacher who has gone above and beyond to keep young people learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But he will also be the recipient of additional prize money because overall winner Ranjitsinh Disale, a teacher from India, has vowed to share half of his $1 million (£757,000) prize with the other nine finalists.
“It is a fantastic gesture. He had said that he would do this before the winner was announced if he won and, speaking to other finalists, we were saying, 'If I don’t win, I definitely hope he does',” Dr Frost joked.
Mr Frost won his Covid Hero award for the impact of his website in supporting maths teaching in the pandemic.
DrFrostMaths provides an online learning platform, teaching resources, videos and a bank of exam questions for free.
He told Tes that he planned to use the prize money to convert it into an education charity and to expand internationally.
The website began as a blog published by a fledgling maths teacher eight years ago but has grown to the point where it has now had more than 8 million resource downloads and is accessed by teachers in more than 100 countries around the world.
The site already had international reach before the pandemic, but Dr Frost said that the Covid crisis has transformed the site.
Within a week of schools shutting down around the world, the site’s page views more than trebled from 400,000 to 1.3 million.
“It was incredible. I was spending all my time writing code to adapt the site and to ensure it met the needs of the people using it.
“I have had messages from all over the world. One from Brazil recently said that they were still in lockdown and that the site was a lifeline for them to be able to continue maths teaching,” Mr Frost said.
“One thing which has been very effective in the lockdown is an interactive whiteboard which allows teachers to get resources from the site share the work with pupils and then access all of the students’ individual whiteboards on their screen to see the work they are doing.”
Academy award winning actor & @UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, @ForestWhitaker, announces UK teacher Jamie Frost as the winner of the Global Teacher Prize Covid Hero Award. Congratulations Jamie! Watch here: https://t.co/KwlDCXJb0Y @DrFrostMaths #GTP2020 pic.twitter.com/quFe3vmDTa— Global Teacher Prize (@TeacherPrize) December 3, 2020
Film star Forest Whitaker announced the award, and Dr Frost also received a message of congratulations from prime minister Boris Johnson and the Department for Education.
Mr Frost has balanced the work of running a popular education website with being a full-time maths teacher at the Tiffin School, in London and also carrying out tutoring work, which he says sometimes leaves him working 90-hour weeks as he combines three jobs.
He said: “I love being a teacher. Throughout this, I have been a full-time teacher and, even as I develop DrFrostMaths, I still want to stay in the classroom.”
He told Tes it was important to recognise that the demands that have been placed on the profession during Covid-19.
“It has been a difficult year. At the start of the first lockdown in March it was just very difficult to get used to. Instead of being inside a school and moving around, you are delivering six lessons from your chair and in a way that is mentally more exhausting, but over time you adapt to it.
“And then when we returned in September, that has been really hard too. I nearly cried for the first two weeks.”
Dr Frost said teachers have had to work to reinvent aspects of the job during the pandemic.
“For example, in the classroom now there is a line on the floor, like police tape, which we cannot cross. And that is difficult because you cannot wander over if you see a pupil at the back of the classroom struggling, so you have to find new ways of supporting pupils and communicating with them.
“It has been nice that this award gives a high-profile recognition and positive media coverage for the work of teachers this year.”
The winner's story
When Ranjitsinh Disale arrived at the Zilla Parishad Primary School in 2009, it was a dilapidated building sandwiched between a cattle shed and a storeroom.
Most of the girls were from tribal communities where school attendance could sometimes be as low as 2 per cent, and teenage marriage was common.
For those who did make it to school, the curriculum was not in their primary language (Kannada), leaving many students unable to learn at all.
Mr Disale was determined to turn this around. After moving to the village and going to great efforts to learn the local language, he then not only translated the class textbooks but also embedded them with unique QR codes to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments.
The Global Teacher Prize said: “The impact of Ranjitsinh’s interventions has been extraordinary: there are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance by girls at the school.”