March 21, 2018

British Arts Educator Wins $1 Million Global Teacher Award

LONDON, ENGLANDAndria Zafirakou, a British arts and textiles teacher from Alperton Community School in Brent, a borough in northwest London, was named the fourth recipient of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, a $1 million award that recognizes outstanding contributions to education. She was presented with the award at a ceremony in Dubai on Sunday.

Zafirakou was recognized for serving students in one of the poorest areas in the country. Brent is diverse—around 130 different languages are spoken in the borough—but it also has a high rate of crime. Zafirakou provides extra lessons throughout the day and on the weekends so that her students, who often come from overcrowded homes, can have a safe and quiet place to work. She also redesigned the curriculum in collaboration with her colleagues so that it would be more relevant to the communities she serves; began learning phrases in several languages, including Gujarati, Hindi, and Tamil; and has visited family homes to connect with her students.

According to The Guardian, Zafirakou was shocked when she learned that she was this year’s prizewinner. She praised teachers working in the UK and said, “This award goes out to all of us.” When asked about the prize money, she said, “I’m going to be patient, I’m going to reflect, but as you know I think it would be really fantastic if I could think about how the arts could be celebrated even further within our school community.”

The Varkey Foundation is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the standards of education for underprivileged children. It was founded by Sunny Varkey, a Dubai-based education entrepreneur and philanthropist, in 2010. The prize is backed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and the emir of Dubai.

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