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Alperton Community School teacher wins Global Teacher Prize

Andria Zafirakou, an art and textiles teacher from Alperton Community School, has won the Global Teacher Prize 2018 and $1m

Posted by Lucinda Reid | March 21, 2018 | Events

A teacher from Alperton Community School in Brent, London has been named as the winner of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018 at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai. The first UK winner of the prize, Andria Zafirakou is an art and textiles teacher at Alperton and was nominated for her inspirational work at the school.

Alperton Community School, which has academy status, is in one of the poorest parts of the UK, with over a third of children living in poverty. Many of the school’s pupils come from crowded homes which are shared by multiple families and the borough of Brent has more than 130 languages spoken. However, Andria has taken all of this in her stride and has transformed the school so that every pupil can reach their potential. From launching a Somali school choir to learning basic hello-and-goodbye greetings in many of the 35 languages spoken at the school, Andria’s commitment and passion to Alperton is unwavering.

Speaking to Academy Today at the Global Education and Skills Forum before the winner was announced, Andria said: “I was shocked when I found out I was a finalist. I think I might have screamed when I heard the news. It was very unexpected to be in the top 50 and that was good enough, so to be in the top 10 is beyond phenomenal.”

“How would I celebrate if I won?” said Andria before her winning moment. “I think I would dance continuously. I would also make sure that I enjoy the moment with all the top 50 teachers [who were shortlisted for the prize]. I have met some really incredible people, so I would want to enjoy the moment with them and celebrate together.”

Andria explained how her life has changed since finding out she was nominated for the Global Teacher Prize 2018 and that she is delighted teachers are being recognised at a global event.

“My life has changed because I feel valued by the Global Teacher Prize,” said Andria. “I feel that the work I do within my community is important and needed. All teachers should feel like that because they all work really hard. Teachers are doing the most noble job in the world and for all the right reasons. I just feel so blessed that there are people like Sunny Varkey and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who understand and value teachers.”

Andria Zafirakou with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sunny Varkey

Sunny Varkey is the founder of the Varkey Foundation and believes that every child deserves a vibrant, stimulating learning environment that awakens and supports their full potential. The Varkey Foundation founded the Global Teacher Prize four years ago to shine a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world.

“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,” said Sunny Varkey.

At the awards ceremony, Andria also received a message from Prime Minister Theresa May who said: “Being a great teacher requires resilience, ingenuity, and a generous heart. These are the qualities that you share with your students every day. So thank you for all you have done and continue to do.”

As well as highlighting Andria’s inspirational work, the prize also illustrated the importance of the arts. Alperton Community School has specialisms in maths, computing and the arts and the school is proud of its commitment to these subjects.

Andria with the other nine finalists

“In my school we value the arts and we have got excellent results because of that,” said Andria. “The arts help to nurture every child and by having a broad curriculum it enables pupils to become well-rounded. When children run to your lessons and get there before you, complaining that you are late when actually you are five minutes early, I think that is a good sign.”

As the 2018 Global Teacher Prize winner, Andria has won US $1 million (£720,000) which will be paid in equal instalments over 10 years. She will also serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation and promote the prestige of the teaching profession.

The other nine finalists of 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.

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