A teacher from United Kingdom has won the prestigious Global Teacher Prize in Dubai - Andria Zafirakou.
In a glitzy ceremony on Sunday at Atlantis, The Palm, Zafirakou was awarded the prize by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler.
The whopping $1 million prize was presented the Varkey Foundation.
The prize is part of the Global Education and Skills Forum, included 10 teacher finalists who were selected from around the globe, including Turkey, the US and UK, Belgium and the Philippines, among others.
Shortly after awarding the prize, Sheikh Mohammed took to Twitter to congratulate Zafirakou:
It was my pleasure to honour - today - the best teacher in the world that won the Varkey foundation's $1 million Global Teacher Prize.
Congratulations, Andria Zafirakou, for bagging the title of the best teacher for the best profession - every teacher is a star, a star in the sky of our society, a star the generations can be guided by.a star, whose goodness encompasses everybody.'
Andria teaches at Alperton Community School, a secondary school academy in the inner city borough of Brent. It's no easy task. Brent is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the country and 130 languages are spoken in its schools, according to details provided on the official award website.
Its pupils come from some of the poorest families in Britain, many sharing one house with five other families, many exposed to gang violence. Children arrive at the school with limited skills and already feel isolated from staff and one another, making engaging with them all the more vital, but all the more difficult.
The odds were stacked against her succeeding, but Andria has defied them. Working as an art and textiles teacher and as a member of the senior leadership team tasked with earning the trust of her pupils and their families to understand the complex lives they've come from, she redesigned the curriculum across all subjects from scratch - carefully working alongside other teachers - to have it resonate with her pupils.
She helped a music teacher launch a Somali school choir and she created alternative timetables to allow girls-only sports that would not offend conservative communities, leading the girls' cricket team to win the McKenzie Cup.
Learning the basics of many of the 35 languages in Alperton's pupil population, Andria has been able to reach out to her once marginalised students to earn their trust and, crucially, establish relationships with their parents.
Thanks to her efforts, Alperton is now in the top 1 to 5 per cent of the country in terms of qualifications and accreditations. This as a colossal achievement given how low the students' starting points were and how rapidly they progressed during their five to seven years at the school, a point recognised by the national inspection team.
Introducing real life situations in maths classes helped Alperton's maths department win the TES 2017 maths team of the year. In her own art classes, Andria has creatively redesigned the curriculum, even bringing in an "Artist in residence" to promote inspiration and help pupils cope with the responsibilities of their complex home circumstances. As a result, Alperton has been awarded specialist school status in visual arts.
World leaders, such as former US vice-president Al Gore and former French president Nicholas Sarkozy, were present during the two-day event.