His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, today honoured Andria Zafirakou, an art and textiles teacher from Alperton Community School, Brent, London, United Kingdom, after having been named winner of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018.
The British teacher won a US$1 million award in its fourth year. She also received a gold cup.
The glittering award ceremony was held at Atlantis The Palm Hotel and hosted by comedian and actor Trevor Noah and included a special musical performance by Oscar-winning actress and Grammy award winning singer Jennifer Hudson. Over 4,000 children gathered to announce this year’s winner via a special video message. Almost 2,000 of those gathered achieved a world record – world’s largest human hashtag symbol.
Four times Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton was involved in a stunt where he raced to the Global Teacher Prize 2018 ceremony in a Mercedes Benz GTC, escorted by three Dubai Police supercars (Ferrari, Mercedes SL AMG and Audi R8). He arrived just in time to deliver the Global Teacher Prize trophy on stage.
In a special congratulatory video message broadcast into the ceremony hall, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, said: "Being a great teacher requires resilience, ingenuity, and a generous heart. These are the qualities that you share with your students everyday. So thank you for all you have done and continue to do".
"I would also like to extend a huge thank you to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. For his support of the teaching profession and patronage of this prize."
The ceremony was attended by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance; Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future; Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation; Jameela Al Muheiri, Minister of State for Public Education; Khalifa Saeed Sulaiman, Director-General of Dubai Protocol and Hospitality Department; Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, and a number of heads of government, former education ministers and academic, cultural and artistic personalities from across the world.
Now in its fourth year, the US$1 million award is the largest prize of its kind, and was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.
Andria Zafirakou teaches in an inner-city school in Brent, one of the poorest parts of the UK, with over a third of children living in poverty and many of her students coming from crowded homes shared with multiple families. At the same time, some of her pupils are exposed to gang violence with the borough having the second highest murder rate in the UK. Brent is also ethnically diverse with the second largest proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in England and Wales, and a 2011 school census highlighting that 149 languages were spoken.
As a member of the school’s senior leadership team, Andria has transformed her school’s approach to reach often isolated young people so that they can engage in school life and perform to the best of their abilities. She quickly realised that a one size fits all curriculum would not resonate with all her students so she set about redesigning it from top to bottom, alongside fellow teachers, in order to make it relevant to her pupil’s lives. She helped a music teacher launch a Somali school choir and created alternative timetables to allow girls-only sports that would not offend conservative communities, leading the girls’ cricket team on to victory and winning the McKenzie Cup. In her own arts class, she worked with an "Artist in Residence" (Armando Alemdar) to creatively redesign the art curriculum to promote inspiration and help pupils confront and cope with the responsibilities of their complex home circumstances. As a result, Alperton has been awarded specialist school status in visual arts.
Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said:"I want to congratulate Andria Zafirakou for winning the Global Teacher Prize 2018. I hope 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."