London teacher shortlisted for million-dollar global prize announced by Bill Gates

A north London woman has made it to the top ten of a million-dollar competition to find the world’s best teacher.

Andria Zafirakou, an art and textiles teacher at Alperton Community School in Brent, was shortlisted for the global prize announced by tech billionaire Bill Gates.

She was commended for her work with deprived pupils in the borough, where some children are forced to do homework in the bathroom because they live in such crowded houses.

Ms Zafirakou holds extra lessons out of hours for such pupils and works across other services, such as police and mental health specialists, to help children in the community.

Andria Zafirakou, a teacher at Alperton Community School in Brent has made it onto the shortlist  (PA)

She has helped to set up clubs and societies, redesigned the curriculum with her fellow teachers to make it relevant to pupils’ lives, and is known for taking time to understand her students’ lives, such as visiting their homes, taking the bus with them and welcoming them at the school gates.

“By getting pupils to open up about their home lives, I discovered that many of my students come from crowded homes where multiple families share a single property,” Ms Zafirakou said.

Praise: She was commended for her work with deprived pupils in the borough

“In fact it’s often so crowded and noisy I’ve had students tell me they have to do their homework in the bathroom, just to grab a few moments alone so they can concentrate.

“Some were being forced to play truant to cook meals in the allocated time slot they were permitted to use their shared home kitchen. Others could not participate in extra-curricular activities after school because they had to take on parental responsibilities like collecting their brothers and sisters from other schools.”

Teacher: Ms Zafirakou holds extra lessons out of hours

The competition was launched by the Varkey Foundation to “inspire” people to enter teaching and “shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do”.

Upon announcing the finalists, Bill Gates said: “When you think about what drives progress and improvement in the world, education is like a master switch – one that opens up all sorts of opportunities for individuals and societies.

Other nominees

Nurten Akkuş a pre-school teacher and principal, Samsun, Turkey

Marjorie Brown, history teacher, Johannesburg, South Africa

Luis Gutierrez, social science teacher, Bogota, Colombia

Jesus Insilada, English teacher, Iloilo, Philippines

Glenn Lee, engineering and technology teacher, Hawaii, United States

Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima, school director, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Koen Timmers, lecturer and computer science teacher, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium

Eddie Woo, maths teacher, Sydney, Australia

Barbara Anna Zielonka, English teacher, Nannestad, Norway.

“And research has shown that having a great teacher can be the most important factor that determines whether students get a great education.”

More than 30,000 people were nominated from 173 countries.

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