An art and textiles teacher at a community school in London has been named as one of 10 finalists in the running for a $1m global teaching prize.
Andria Zafirakou, who works at Alperton community school in Brent, was chosen out of more than 30,000 nominations from more than 170 countries.
Other finalists include a history teacher at a private school in South Africa, a Turkish pre-school teacher, a creative writing teacher from the Philippines, a maths teacher from Australia and an English teacher from Norway.
Zafirakou joined Alperton as a newly qualified teacher in 2005 and has worked her way up to become a member of the senior leadership team. The school said her success was built on being rooted in the local community, which had given her an understanding of the deprivation that affects many of her pupils’ lives.
The prize committee were impressed by her efforts to reach isolated young people to help them 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 pupils’ lives,” the committee said.
She told judges: “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.
“In fact 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. I also found that some were being forced to play truant to cook meals in the allocated time slot they were permitted to use their shared home kitchen.
“Discovering all this prompted me to organise additional provision within the school day and often at weekends to help students have the opportunity to progress.”
Zafirakou was one of four UK teachers who made the shortlist of 50, including
Announcing the top 10 finalists, philanthropist Bill Gates said: “When you think about what drives progress and improvement in the world, education is like a master switch – one that opens up all sorts of opportunities for individuals and societies.”
The Global Teacher prize was set up four years ago by the Varkey Foundation to improve the status of teachers and publicly acknowledge the work they do. The winner is paid the prize money over 10 years in equal instalments and will be given financial counselling.
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