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Canadian wins Global Teacher Prize for work with Inuit community

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-03-20 21:09

Maggie MacDonnell, who teaches at the Ikusik School in Salluit, a remote Inuit village nestled in the Canadian Arctic, won this year's Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize on Sunday.

She was awarded the prize at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

All the candidates were picked from more than 20,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries by the London-based foundation.

For the first time, a Chinese teacher Yang Boya, a psychology teacher at The Affiliated Middle School of Kunming Teachers College in Yunnan province, has been honored as a top 10 candidate for the annual prize.

"The nomination process created a means for more than 20,000 teachers to feel valued and revitalized and to have their professional commitment validated," MacDonnell said on stage after being awarded.

"On a personal note I would like to invite my students to share in this award, as I have won this not for them but with them,"she added.

After completing her master's degree, MacDonnell sought out opportunities to teach indigenous communities in Canada and for the last six years has been a teacher in the Canadian Arctic.

Due to the harsh conditions, very high turnover rates are seen among teachers, which is a significant educational barrier in the Arctic. Many teachers leave their post midway through the year or apply for stress leave.

The Inuit region of Nunavik faces major gender issues where teenage pregnancies are common and gender roles often burden young girls with heavy domestic duties. Also, in areas of high deprivation, isolation and limited resources, teenagers often turn to drinking and smoking as forms of escape and release.

MacDonnell's whole approach has been about turning students' "problems"into "solutions”. She has created a life skills program specifically for girls, leading to a 500 percent improvement in girls' registration.

MacDonnell has also dramatically improved school attendance by getting her students involved in running a community kitchen, attending suicide prevention training and hiking through national parks to understand environmental stewardship.

She also established a fitness center that has become a hub for youth and adults in the local community. It is helping to relieve stress, bringing young people to grow stronger physically and mentally and bringing the whole community together in a profound and lasting way. She has also been a temporary foster parent in the community, offering her home to some of her own students.

"Teachers owe responsibilities to many people – to students, to parents, to the community, the school board. But in the end, as all great teachers know – they are ultimately responsible to something far greater. They are responsible to the future – and for the world that will be shaped by the children they teach,"Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a special congratulatory video message.

Now in its third year, the Global Teacher Prize was created to recognize exceptional teachers who make outstanding contributions to the profession. The winner receives $1 million.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said, "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 world every day.”

In a video message broadcast into the ceremony, Prince Harry paid tribute to the work of teachers around the world: "In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, the very best teachers go beyond the pages of textbooks to teach young people about determination, aspiration, resilience and compassion.”

The other nine finalists for the Global Teacher Prize this year were:

Raymond Chambers, a computer science teacher from Brooke Weston Academy in Corby, Northamptonshire, UK

Salima Begum, Headteacher at Elementary College for Women Gilgit, Pakistan

David Calle, from Madrid, Spain, the founder and creator of the Unicoos educational website

Wemerson da Silva Nogueira, a science teacher at the Escola Antônio dos Santos Neves in Boa Esperança, Brazil

Marie-Christine Ghanbari Jahromi, a physical education, mathematics and German teacher at Gesamtschule Gescher school, in Gescher, Germany

Tracy-Ann Hall, an automotive technology teacher at Jonathan Grant High School in Spanish Town, Jamaica

Yang Boya, a psychology teacher at The Affiliated Middle School of Kunming Teachers College, China

Michael Wamaya, a dance teacher from Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya

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