UK teacher scoops world’s best teacher award

Most people, including the team here at eTeach, will agree that the very best teachers do much more than just teach. They mentor, guide and inspire their pupils, acting as important role models in their lives.

In our opinion, every great teacher deserves recognition, and we’re bursting with pride after reading about Andria Zafirakou being named the world’s best teacher.

The UK teacher from north London works in a Brent secondary school teaching arts and textiles. As the BBC reports, Mrs Zafirakou used her acceptance speech to address challenges, like overcrowded housing conditions, impacting many of her students. She then went on to call for greater support for the “power of arts” in schools, especially for the “poorest communities.”

UK’s first winner

Mrs Zafirakou is the UK’s first winner of the coveted Global Teacher Prize, worth $1m (£720,000). She beat more than 30,000 teachers from over 170 countries.

The prize was launched in 2015 by the Varkey Foundation, an education charity, in a bid to give more credit to the teaching profession. The Oscars-inspired awards ceremony took place in Dubai, and was attended by the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Mo Farah, Al Gore and Tony Blair.

Speaking to the audience, Mrs Zafirakou warned of how children are experiencing “deprivation” and living “tough lives,” where they “might not eat well because their lunch boxes are empty.” Though, she continued by saying that schools have the chance to make a huge, positive difference – especially through creative subjects.

“Too often we neglect this power of the arts to actually transform lives, particularly in the poorest communities,” Mrs Zafirakou told the crowd. The teacher, who works at Alperton Community School, is highly commended for her work with the local community as well as with students.

She called the mix of people and languages in north London a “beautiful challenge” that creates a “buzzing” atmosphere. Around 130 different languages are spoken in the London borough, which is claimed to be one of the most ethnically-diverse regions in the UK. Mrs Zafirakou took it upon herself to learn basic phrases in languages such as Tamil, Hindi and Gujarati, and pays visits to the homes of her students to build vital links with the school.

Mrs Zafirakou discovered that many of her pupils were living in crowded homes, where they found it hard to find a space to study and do their homework. So, she put on extra lessons during the day and at the weekend, giving students a quiet place for them to do their work.

Founder of the Varkey Foundation, Sunny Varkey, said 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.”

Reading this story, it’s clear to see that Mrs Zafirakou is truly deserving of this accolade, and it goes to show how teachers are achieving incredible things even in the most challenging of environments. If you’re looking for your next rewarding role in teaching, you’ll find it here.



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One thought on “UK teacher scoops world’s best teacher award

  1. Mrs Zafirakou is, indeed, truly deserving of this accolade, but far from inspiring I find the story dispiriting, casting an ugly light as it does on all the shortcomings of society in general and the education system itself. In an interview with Mrs Zafirakou she states how she is in school for 7:30am and doesn’t leave until 5:30pm, continuing to work in the evenings and dedicating weekends to her pupils too. Is this really the kind of existence that we want to be promoting for teachers? Yes, Mrs Zafirakou’s pupils are very, very lucky to have such a dedicated individual, but this kind of commitment is neither sustainable nor, in my opinion, desirable. I don’t want to detract from Mrs Zafirakou’s amazing achievement in winning this recognition, but for years we have banged on about work-life balance and how teachers fail to achieve this, working ridiculously long hours and allowing work to eat into family- and down-time. All this award does, to my mind, is magnify the problem.

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