Do you know of any exceptional educators who have made a difference in the lives of children and the school community? Now is your opportunity to give back! Nominations for the Global Teacher Prize by the Varkey GEMS Foundation are being accepted until October 5, 2014 and many have already being received from around the world. The prize is $1 million!
So, who is your million dollar teacher? I know who mine were. Yes, in my case, I was lucky enough to have more than one extraordinary teacher. My physical education teacher and coach was definitely one. Athletics taught me that through solid dedication, accountability, teamwork and collaboration, we can have positive and sometimes impressive results. Another was my math teacher, who made it fun and easy to connect math formulas to real world issues. These were the kind of people who, in a short period of time, managed to have such a huge impact on my life that it lasted for years to come.
International and national exams and studies all show what seems obvious: teachers are the ones who contribute the most to students’ learning processes. Without teachers or schooling, most of us would not have learned how to read, write, think critically or challenge ourselves to be better and to break through barriers. Teachers play a pivotal role in helping us shape our lives.
However, what many of us may not realize is that being an effective, interactive and engaging teacher is extremely challenging. For example, even though students go to school for about 4 to 7 hours a day (depending on the country and the extracurricular activities available), teachers usually arrive from 30 minutes to an hour early and stay an additional two to three hours after class ends. Also, in order to be engaging, teachers often purchase materials with their own money. They often think of new ways to boost student learning, and create more and more interactive activities, using different teaching modalities to address the fact that we all learn in different ways.
Both of my parents are educators and to me they are also million dollar teachers! Through them and by being in the classroom myself, I observed some characteristics that make great teachers such as:
- Balancing interactive learning with curriculum standards, and an increased focus on high stakes testing;
- Worrying about those students who have difficulties not only in learning but at home;
- Waiting hours after school with students’ whose parents or caregivers don’t arrive until late;
- Supporting students whose parents are in prison or not around to give them extra support;
- Donating extra clothes because they know that not all students have the means at home;
- Trying desperately to push against the current and offer those children living in dire situations a sense of hope and opportunity.
Being a good teacher takes time, dedication, and it is physically and mentally exhausting. I know that, for my parents and for many teachers around the world, it is well worth it, because the difference they make not only improves a child’s learning today, but also shapes their future lives and, ultimately, contributes to a better society.
The goal of the Varkey Gems Foundation is to offer the Nobel Prize equivalent to teachers. Influential individuals and educators are behind this prize, including Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the IDB, Geoffrey Canada from Harlem’s Children Zone, Carina Wong from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, James Ryan from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Kevin Spacey, Academy Award winning Actor, Vicky Colbert from Fundación Escuela Nueva, among others.
Applications are due on October 5, 2014. The form is available here.