Bill Gates announces Alperton teacher in top 10 finalists for Global Teacher Prize

Last night, Bill Gates announced the top 10 finalists of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018, and our art and textile teacher Andria Zafirakou‏ was one of the shortlisted finalists.

Andria Zafirakou and the other finalists have been selected from over 30,000 nominations and applications from 173 countries around the world. The top ten have been narrowed down from a top 50 shortlist that was announced in December 2017. The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday 18 March 2018.

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognize exceptional teachers who make outstanding contributions to the profession and to highlight the important role teachers play in society. Now in its fourth year, the US$1 million award is the largest prize of its kind.

In a special video message announcing the finalists, philanthropist Bill Gates paid a powerful tribute to the work of teachers around the world.

Andria is an Art and Textiles teacher at Alperton Community School in Brent, a specialist Visual Arts school. She joined the school in 2005 as a Newly Qualified Teacher and has grown to now hold a role as class teacher and member of the Senior Leadership Team, leading on staff professional development, teaching and learning and curriculum innovation.

Andria is home grown, and a stellar model of what a teacher can be when they are rooted in their local community. She has  a deep understanding of the impact of deprivation on her students which drives her to ensure that these students get the very best education that they can.  

Andria has purchased new uniforms to ensure her students could enter the school without any socio-economic challenges as their label. Through her strategic role, she has driven an initiative which offers every pupil a new uniform when they begin in year 7. 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.

Andria has gone against the grain, taking the time to understand student lives beyond school by visiting their homes, riding with them on the bus and sometimes standing at the school gates with police officers to welcome pupils as they arrive at the start of the school day. She has also learned the basic hello-and-goodbye greetings in many of the 35 languages spoken at her school, including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and Portuguese, to break down the barriers and crucially help in beginning to establish relationships with their parents, many of whom do not speak English. One of Andria’s greatest innovations was to bring local police officers, mental health workers and teachers to the school table to discuss pupils from a 360 degree viewpoint, enabling everyone involved in their lives to work together to help them succeed.

Thanks to her efforts, Alperton Community School is now in the top 1 to 5% of the country in terms of qualifications and accreditations. This was a colossal achievement, given how low the students’ starting points were and how rapidly they progressed during their five to seven years. Andria has helped her school gain the Institute of Education (IOE) Professional Development Quality Mark Award (PDQM) Platinum, so prestigious that it has been given to fewer than 10 schools across the UK.

Andria Zafirakou said:

“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. Others could not participate in extracurricular activities after school because they had to take on parental responsibilities like collecting their brothers and sisters from other schools. 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. This included giving them access to a quiet place to do their art work, as well as time to participate in extracurricular activities.”

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize, said:

“I want to congratulate Andria Zafirakou for being selected as a top ten finalist from such a huge number of talented and dedicated teachers. I hope her story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the UK and throughout the world every day.

“The thousands of nominations and applications we received from every corner of the planet is testimony to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives.”

The other nine finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2018 are:

  • Nurten Akkuş a pre-school teacher and principal at Ayvacık Pre-School, Samsun, Turkey;
  • Marjorie Brown, who teaches history at Roedean School, Johannesburg, South Africa;
  • Luis Gutierrez, a social science teacher at the Gerardo Paredes School, Suba, Bogotá Colombia;
  • Jesus Insilada, who teaches English and creative writing at Caninguan National High School in Lambunao, Iloilo, Philippines;
  • Glenn Lee, an engineering and technology teacher from Waialua High & Intermediate School, Waialua, Hawaii, United States;
  • Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima, director of Darcy Ribeiro Municipal School, in São José do Rio Preto, São Paulo, Brazil;
  • Koen Timmers, a lecturer at PXL university college in Hasselt and a computer science teacher at CVO De Verdieping school in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium;
  • Eddie Woo, a mathematics teacher from Cherrybrook Technology High School, Sydney, Australia;
  • Barbara Anna Zielonka, an English teacher at Nannestad High School, Norway.

The original top 50 shortlisted teachers were narrowed down to ten finalists by a Prize Committee. The winner will be chosen from this ten by the Global Teacher Prize Academy. All ten finalists will be invited to Dubai for the Award ceremony at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) on Sunday 18 March, where the winner will be announced live on stage in a red carpet gala event which is beamed around the world.

Further information about the top 10 finalists is available here: http://www.globalteacherprize.org.

To join the conversation online follow us on Twitter: @AlpertonCS, @Andriazaf, #TeachersMatter