Andria Zafirakou, an art and textiles teacher from north London, has won a competition to find the world’s best teacher. The prize carried with it a financial reward of $1 million, or £720,000.
The Global Teacher Prize saw more than 130,000 teachers from over 170 countries nominated for the coveted title. Mrs. Zafirakou dedicated the award to her “fellow teachers and wonderful students at Alperton Community School, in Brent, London.”
Working in a “buzzing” community
The teacher, who was particularly commended for her work in the community, says that she drew inspiration from the “beautiful” and “buzzing” diversity of the Brent area where she works.
“By getting pupils to open up about their home lives, I discovered that many of my students come from crowded homes where multiple families share a single property,” said Mrs Zafirakou.
“It’s often so crowded and noisy I’ve had students tell me they have to do their homework in the bathroom, just to grab a few moments alone so they can concentrate.”
In response to this problem, she helped to organise extra lessons for deprived students who have too little space and time to work efficiently at home. She has also gone beyond the call of duty working with her local police to ensure that students can get safely to and from school.
Mrs. Zafirakou believes that every school can, and often does, make a difference to the lives of deprived children, by providing a safe and quiet place to study, have fun and generally spend time.
“The power of arts”
Mrs Zafirakou, an art and textiles teacher, also said “Too often we neglect this power of the arts to actually transform lives, particularly in the poorest communities.”
She followed this with a call for more of a focus on these subjects.
This view will ring true with one of her vocal supporters; Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who is working to bring more funding and new teachers into the arts subjects.
In a speech, Mr. Barton said that “Arts subjects and physical education are an essential element in a well-rounded education, not optional extras. They are a proud tradition of the UK’s schools and colleges, internationally admired; and they should be a birthright for children of all backgrounds.”
Along with Mr. Barton; Theresa May, Lewis Hamilton, Mo Farah, Al Gore, Damian Hinds and Tony Blair all honoured her.
An inspiration for future teachers
Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation which runs the competition, also had some very relevant comments, saying he hoped “Andria’s story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world, every day”.
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