Two US teachers, and an American-born educator representing India, are in the running to scoop the $1m prize. Here are their stories:
Joe Fatheree from Effingham High School, Effingham, Illinois, USA. When Joe began teaching almost thirty years ago, he quickly found that his 16- to 18-year-old at-risk students did not respond to the methods he had learned in teacher training. So he asked the students how they wanted to be taught. His students now learn by producing music, books and short films on topics like poverty, death, bullying, homelessness and human rights. His students also use 3D printing and drone technology in their projects, build educational games for young children using Minecraft, and engage in public speaking. He developed an entrepreneurism programme to encourage students to move back home after graduation and start their own businesses. The framework is now being used in over 30 cities. Joe was named Illinois Teacher of the Year in 2007 and was awarded the NEA’s National Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009. He led several initiatives that have impacted education policy and practice on national and state level.
Michael Soskil from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, USA. Michael is the head teacher of Wallenpaupack South Elementary School in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania and recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. Having looked at neuroscience research, he bases his approach to teaching on the finding that learning is stored in long-term memory when a child emotionally connects with what is being taught. He aims to facilitate emotional connections through project- and problem-based learning activities and by allowing students to feel the joy that comes through helping others. Michael has designed numerous projects where his classes have collaborated with and learned from students and experts around the world. 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.
Robin Chaurasiya, founded and teaches at Kranti, a nonprofit that empowers marginalised girls from Mumbai's red-light areas to become agents of social change. Her students, girls aged 12-20, include survivors of trafficking and daughters of sex workers. She has formalized a Social Justice curriculum at Kranti covering the key issues that affect the girls’ lives, such as caste, class, religion, environment and healthcare. The school week consists of Music Mondays, TED Talk Tuesdays, Worldly Wednesdays, Thinking Thursdays and Field Trip Fridays. Weekends include plays, films, and exhibits, as well as required volunteer work in an NGO of their choice. Robin’s students, called ‘Revolutionaries’ (Krantikaries), are turned into teachers and community leaders, creating a ripple effect of children teaching each other. They have conducted workshops at schools and NGOs for more than 100,000 students and parents, and delivered 11 TEDx talks around the world. They have also written a play about their experiences, which they performed across the US and even at Facebook’s and Google’s headquarters.