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Two Arabs in shortlist for $1m teacher prize

Winner, selected from 30,000 nominations, to be revealed next March in Dubai

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Gulf News

Dubai: Two teachers from the Middle East have been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018 at globalteacherprize.org.

Now in its fourth year, the $1-million (Dh3.67-million) award is said to be the largest prize of its kind in the world. The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on March 18, 2018.

The two shortlisted teachers are Hiba Ballout, a biology teacher and science coordinator at Saint George Schools, Beirut, Lebanon, and Samar Naazal, who teaches robotics and physics to mainly Syrian and Palestinian refugee girls in a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Irbid, Jordan.

They were selected from over 30,000 nominations and applications from 173 countries around the world.

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.

Ballout has been an adviser for students in Model United Nations and Model Arab League programmes organised by the Lebanese American University since 2011, which has helped her develop her students’ communications and leadership skills.

As a member of Life-Link Friendship Schools, she encourages her students to participate in international conferences and engage in worldwide issues such as climate change to increase their sense of global citizenship.

In September, she won Lebanon’s Best Teacher Prize organised by the Arab Network for Popular Education.

Meanwhile, Naazal teaches in Irbid, a poor community with many girls dropping out of school owing to early marriage. In a bid to increase interest in science, she introduced robotics into her lessons, which has raised her students’ awareness of international issues.

Each year, Naazal sets a scientific research challenge for her female students focused on a different global problem for presenting the same to experts. Many of her students have gone on to success, with one winning first prize in an Arab world science and engineering competition. Others are now working as physics teachers at the UNRWA.

Recognised many times for her pioneering work in girls’ education, she won the UNWRA Distinguished Teacher Award in 2015.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize, said: “Congratulations to Hiba Ballout and Samar Naazal for reaching the final 50. I hope their stories inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world every day. We intend to keep this momentum going as our journey continues to return teachers to their rightful position as one of the most respected professions in society.”

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