Meet the top 10 teachers

07 Mar 2019 |

These teachers have been selected as 10 of the best in the world. They have been shortlisted for the 2019 Global Teacher Prize, which gives $1million to the most inspiring teacher. Each of the top 10 are already having an incredible impact on the lives and futures of schoolchildren in their schools and communities. These are their stories:

Vladimer Apkhazava, Georgia

Vladimer is already a hero in his home country, where he won the Georgian National Teacher Prize in 2017 for campaigning against child labour. He’s been teaching in the village of Chibati, western Georgia, since 2010 – a region so poverty stricken, his pupils often arrive hungry. In some cases, they are so malnourished, they have been taken to hospital.

As part of his mission to change lives, he has set up a ‘family house’ in the village, giving a home to eight boys who were victims of domestic violence.

As many students quit their studies to move across the border to Turkey in search of work, Vladimer has taken it upon himself to drive around the country meeting parents and convincing them to keep their children in school.

Besides fundraising to provide educational resources and summer camp places for disadvantaged children, he’s also started an initiative to give pupils a greater role in running the school. This has now expanded to 14 other schools.

Débora Garofalo, Brazil

In 2015, Débora developed the Junk Robotics, Promoting Sustainability project to tackle two issues at once – the technology skills gap for pupils on the outskirts of São Paulo, and the problem of waste.

Many of her pupils come from nearby favelas and experience violence, poverty and insanitary conditions – with limited job prospects.

More than 2,000 students have been through the programme already, using over 700kg of rubbish to design and build prototypes of robots, cars and boats.

The programme is having a measurable impact on students’ prospects: exam results have improved and children at risk of dropping out of school have stayed.  

Débora is working to spread the project, training other teachers in Junk Robotics, as well as curating São Paulo Tech Week.

Her work is also driving change on a country-wide scale, directly influencing how technology is included in the national curriculum.

Daisy Mertens, Netherlands

It is Daisy’s belief that every child deserves a high-quality education which underpins her work empowering her pupils to participate as equal partners in their education.

By engaging and motivating them to set goals for their own personal growth she aims to give her pupils “the vision they need so they can be more, go further and fly higher”.

Training as she drew on her childhood experiences of school being a safe and free environment, compared to an often-tough home life, and chose to work at a school in a deprived part of The Netherlands. Many of her pupils have learning difficulties, poor language skills and struggle to achieve their dreams.

Her High5 initiative empowers children to come up with fresh approaches to how a school community operates – improving the quality of education and making pupils happier, better learners and, ultimately, better citizens.

Andrew Moffat, UK

Andrew’s efforts to break down prejudice and encourage acceptance have already received the royal seal of approval – he was awarded an MBE in 2017 by the Queen for services to equality and diversity in education.

Through his own personal journey, Andrew realised many academic, social and emotional problems are the result of being labelled an ‘outsider’, rather than being accepted.

At Parkside Community School in Birmingham, which is 99% Muslim and in the bottom 5% of most deprived schools in the UK, he introduced the No Outsiders programme, training teachers in encouraging inclusiveness and acceptance. He offers weekend workshops and the programme is now being piloted in three other UK cities.

He also runs the Parkfield Ambassadors after-school club, for pupils to meet people from different backgrounds, and his website www.equalitiesprimary.com provides free lesson and assembly plans.

Swaroop Rawal, India

It was only in her late 30s, after becoming a mother, that Swaroop decided to become a teacher. She’d seen first-hand how some methods of teaching made children more stressed, which would then permeate through the family.

She set out to make children more resilient by learning life skills, and to change teaching methods to help pupils and teachers build their sense of self-worth.

Swaroop has reached children from a diverse range of backgrounds – from street kids to those in elite schools – and uses drama to help them make an impact in their own communities.

Her award-winning work has helped develop measures to prevent child marriage, stop child labour in the diamond-polishing industry and facilitate the return of children to school.

Melissa Salguero, USA

When $30,000 of music equipment was wrecked and stolen from Melissa’s South Bronx school in 2014, she rallied her pupils to make a music video of their story. It went viral, caught the attention of talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres and raised $200,000 for the school, in a neighbourhood where more than 59% of children live in poverty.

Melissa learned the art of perseverance in high school – overcoming difficulties to become the leader of a marching band.

As a teacher, she decided to instill the value of never giving up in her own pupils.

At Public School 48, she began the school’s first band programme, raising money for the first set of instruments and seeing behaviour, discipline and attendance improve among students.

In 2018, she won the GRAMMY Music Educator Award for her contributions to the field of music.

Martin Salvetti, Argentina

Martin’s approach to teaching could be defined as ‘learning by doing’. When he first returned to his own school as a tutor, he set up a weekend football club for both teachers and pupils – bringing people together from diverse parts of Argentine society and allowing them to interact in a completely different way.

Seeing the success of the club, and the impact activities out the classroom can have in it, inspired Martin to build on his work. Through arts funding, he set up a student radio project, which has thrived – and is on air today 24/7. It’s used as a platform to campaign for positive change, with students exploring children’s rights and religion, as well as raising awareness of environmental issues.

As head of the school’s Automotive Department, Martin also set up the ‘One car for one horse’ project. Students combine their skills in electronics, mechanics and metalwork to salvage motorbikes and cars and swap them with rescue horses being used for labour and suffering cruelty.

His work has been linked to a decrease in drop-out rates and his students have gone on to pursue careers in the entertainment and mechanics industries.

Yasodai Selvakumaran, Australia

Yasodai teaches at Rooty Hill High School, in an ethnically diverse and deprived area of Western Sydney, which battles with the stereotype that children from poorer backgrounds cannot achieve academic success.

She draws on her own roots as the daughter of Tamils to inform her teaching ethic – to recognise the biases in education and give everyone a voice.

In just eight years, she has directly influenced the careers of more than 200 teachers and has achieved consistently good results.

In 2016 and 2017, Yasodai’s school was named one of Australia’s 40 most innovative and she’s been recognised with many accolades, including being one of 30 rising stars under 35 in Australian education.

Hidekazu Shoto, Japan

Hidekazu has developed a method of teaching fluency in English without needing to leave his home country of Japan. He was inspired by his own desire to study English as well as by one of his students who was physically unable to travel.

Through online tools such as Skype and Minecraft, Hidekazu connects his students with native English-speaking students, enabling them to make friends and learn new skills.

His pupils have collaborated with primary school students in 10 foreign countries to create buildings together in Minecraft and his teaching has been recognised with a Minecraft Education Award from Microsoft.

He advocates a move away from traditional methods of teacher-centred, rote learning. And by making his English classes more tech-oriented and social, 94% of his students say they like the subject, while his 11-year-olds are scoring higher than the average 14-year-old.

Peter Tabichi, Kenya

He teaches at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in the Rift Valley, with 95% of his students living in poverty and 30% either orphans or from single-parent families.

With many students coming from different religious backgrounds, Peter has united them by introducing a common programme for prayer and worship in assembly, led in turn by pupils from different religions.

Sixty percent of his students’ projects qualified for the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair 2018, with the school seeing great success, as a result of him introducing a Talent Nurturing Club and expanding the Science Club.