Eight teachers from the United States have been included in the final 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2016.
Now in its second year, the $1m award, dubbed the Nobel Prize for teaching, is the largest of its kind in the world.
The eight US teachers – who have made it into the final 50 from 8,000 entries from around the world – are :
- Linda Cliatt-Wayman from Strawberry Mansion High School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Grew up in poverty in North Philadelphia, and her personal experience of both good and bad education inspired her to be a teacher. Her career started with 20 years teaching special education, and the last decade has seen her rapidly turn around three failing high schools, all classified as Persistently Dangerous. She is a co-teacher in each of the 25 classrooms and has helped innovate in all areas of schooling, including school day scheduling and instructional delivery, with impressive academic results.
- Joe Fatheree from Effingham High School, Effingham, Illinois
Began teaching almost 30 years ago, and changed the methods he had learned in teacher training to connect with his 16- to 18-year-old at-risk students. They now learn by producing music, books and short films on topics like poverty, death, bullying, homelessness and human rights, some of which have won awards. Joe was named Illinois Teacher of the Year in 2007, awarded the NEA’s National Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009 and works directly with policymakers. In addition he advised ITVS/Independent Lens to help them develop instructional materials for millions of students throughout the country.
- Aris Pangilinan from Cardozo Education Campus (DCPS), Washigton, DC
Grew up in the Philippines with 11 brothers and sisters, and instead of pursuing a doctorate he sent his younger siblings to college. For the last 13 years he has worked in the US Public School System, teaching mathematics in an impoverished area of Washington, DC. He has developed a variety of teaching styles to help his less accomplished students. Online resources are used extensively for assessment, application and enrichment, and more than 50% of his students receive Bill Gates Scholarships. Aris has won several awards, including the US Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
- Ron Clark from the Ron Clark Academy, Atlanta, Georgia
A lifelong innovator in teaching techniques and is committed to improving the teaching profession. Whilst dreaming of establishing his own demonstration school, he moved to a school in Harlem which had many troubled students. His novel approach turned the situation around, and within a year everyone was at or above grade level. Ron’s classes are highly engaging, extremely demanding and based on personal relationships with his students. He was named American Teacher of the Year and his experiences were turned into an Emmy-nominated movie, "The Ron Clark Story." Today his RCA school in Atlanta delivers exceptional education outcomes and has hosted over 30,000 educators who come to learn his approach and techniques.
- Nadia Lopez from Mott Hall Bridges Academy, Brooklyn, NY
Became a NYC Teaching Fellow to work in disadvantaged communities as a Special Education teacher. In 2010 she founded the Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a public district middle school in Brownsville, one of the poorest and most violent neighbourhoods in New York City. Nadia has developed strategic partnerships with universities and community-based organizations to better prepare her students for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) focused careers and has set up professional development programs for her teachers. The graduation rate has reached 98 per cent, and the work of her school has been covered in the NY Times, on the BBC and the Ellen Show.
- Liviu Haiducu from Avon Community School Corporation, Avon, Indiana
Liviu’s love of physics was inspired by his father, also a physics teacher, while in communist Romania. At 26 Liviu moved to the US and, after two masters degrees, he began classroom teaching. In 2008 he developed an initiative called "Power of Physics" (POP) that involves social media videos and annual POP shows. POP was awarded a grant from the American Association of Physics Teachers and has been presented in Denmark as part of EuroPhysicsFun. Liviu’s work has been recognized with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. He is equally proud that his students have gone on to become fighter pilots and aeronautical engineers at SpaceX.
- Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis from Classes 4 Classes, Monroe, Connecticut
Wanted to be a teacher from a young age, and relished working with children ever since she was allowed to babysit. After seven years as a First Grade teacher, her life changed dramatically as she and her students narrowly survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary on 14 December 2012. Inspired by the help received by the school, she set up a non-profit, Classes 4 Classes, to teach children the power of kindness and compassion through their ability to create positive change for others. The crowdfounded platform engages students in a social curriculum and is already being used in 10 states with over 1,000 students. Kaitlin has been invited to speak about the program in front of over 100 different audiences.
- Michael Soskil from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, Newfoundland, Pennsylnavia
A recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and was among the Top 50 of the 2015 Global Teacher Prize. During his tenure as headteacher his school has exceeded state averages on state tests every year despite suffering from greater poverty than 80% of Pennsylvania schools. Guided by neuroscience, his teaching facilitates emotional connections through service projects. Last school year his students connected with over 70 countries, and even the International Space Station. In recognition of his experience in this area, he was invited to speak at the United Nations Social Innovation Summit and Social Good Summit conferences.
After winning the inaugural Global Teacher Prize 2015, Nancie Atwell, a teacher from Maine, USA, and a judge for the 2016 prize, said: “I'm honored and proud to receive the Global Teacher Prize. I love my teaching life – the intellectual, social, and personal challenges of working with young people and the satisfaction of developing methods that transform their lives and give them perspective on the lives of others.
“I am grateful to the Varkey Foundation for shining a light on teaching as a powerful profession, one of fulfillment, creativity, and lasting worth.”
Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said: “We were overwhelmed by the huge support the Global Teacher Prize received in its first year. We intend to keep this momentum going as our journey continues to return teachers to their rightful position as one of the most respected professions in society.”
For more information, visit globalteacherprize.org