Art & Textiles teacher Andria Zafirakou from Alperton Community School has been named as the winner of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018, awarded under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

Now in its fourth year, the US $1 million award is the largest prize of its kind, and was set up to recognize 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.

The winner of the prestigious award was announced today, Sunday 18 March 2018, at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

GTP 2018 winner announcement – short version from Global Education & Skills Forum on Vimeo.

The glittering award ceremony was 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 – the world’s largest human hashtag symbol.

Four time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was involved in a stunt where he raced to the Global Teacher Prize 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.”

On winning the prize, Andria Zafirakou said:

“The community where I teach in Brent is beautifully diverse and indeed is one of the most multicultural communities in the world.”

“What is amazing is whatever issues students are having at home, whatever is missing from their life or causing them pain, our school is theirs.

 “I know if our school could open at six o’clock in the morning, there would be a queue of children waiting outside at five o’clock in the morning. That’s how phenomenal they are.”

GTP winner acceptance speech from Global Education & Skills Forum on Vimeo.

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 canengage 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.  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 to victory in 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, an award so prestigious that it has been given to fewer than 10 schools across the UK.

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.”

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

  • Nurten Akkuşa 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 was narrowed down to ten finalists by a Prize Committee.  The winner was chosen from this ten by the Global Teacher Prize Academy. All ten finalists were invited to Dubai for the award ceremony at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF), where the winner was announced live on stage in a red carpet gala event that is beamed around the world.

Further information about the top 10 finalists is here:

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