A UK-based art and textiles teacher has been awarded a million-dollar global teaching prize.
Andria Zafirakou works at an inner-city school in north-west London and was one of the 10 finalists shortlisted for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.
The art and textiles teacher, who works at Alperton Community School in Brent, embraced the power of the arts after her name was revealed as the winner of the award. It recognises teachers who have made an outstanding contribution to the sector, with winners being announced at a ceremony held in Dubai.
Ms Zafirakou beat 30,000 teachers from 173 countries to win the prize. She works in one of the country’s most deprived areas and has strong connections with the local community, even learning basic greetings in many of the 35 different languages spoken at the school including Hindi, Portuguese and Gujarati.
She has worked at Alperton Community School for 12 years, and before being crowned the winner, she said that if money weren’t an issue, she would like to see the opening of a specialist arts school, which would include subjects such as drama and music.
Ms Zafirakou was credited for her work beyond the classroom, including establishing relationships with parents, using public transport with pupils and welcoming students at the school gates alongside police officers. She was also commended for taking the time to get to know and understand her students, and their families outside of the school gates.
The art teacher is the first teacher from Britain to win the award, and Prime Minister Theresa May has congratulated her in a video message.
She was born in London and praised the diversity of her school, talking about how serious the students are in their educational pursuits, despite the many challenges they face.
Ms Zafirakou worked with colleagues to redesign the curriculum so that it was relevant to the pupils the school serves. As well as this, she helped to set up all-girls sports clubs and is known for taking the time to understand more about the lives of her students.
She is the first UK teacher to win the prize, which will see her receive a million dollars, equivalent to around £720,000 paid in equal instalments over the next ten years.
The other 9 finalists shortlisted for the prize came from Belgium, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Norway, Turkey, the Philippines and the United States.