Dubai:  Five teachers won the second Mariamma Varkey Award for Inspirational and Outstanding Teaching at GEMS, instituted in honour of the founder of GEMS Education’s first school.

Heather Massaquoi, a music teacher from Bradenton Prep Academy, who won the Most Inspirational Teacher Award, received a cash prize of $60,000 (Dh220,200) as part of the annual award for teachers at GEMS schools held on Wednesday evening.

This year, four other categories were also introduced to honour teaching in early, primary, secondary years and special education teaching. Sharon Robertson from GEMS Wellington Primary School, Anthony Riley from GEMS Royal Dubai School, Neez Hashim from Our Own English High School, Fujairah and Suzie Hachez from Cambridge International School Dubai bagged these awards respectively. 

Each of these winners was given Dh88,080 as cash prize along with a citation.

Heather, currently the head of music at the school was recognized for being an inspirational role model for students and peers and for her exceptional teaching and learning activities, attitude and values, GEMS said.

Hailing from Canada, Heather has been teaching music for 19 years including six years with Bradenton Prep Academy.

"Music is an equalizer for kids. To be able to teach that and receive such an honour is quite overwhelming and humbling," she told Gulf News.

"Every school has a Math and a Science and an English teacher. But music is one part that is special. With this award I think we have  been given an opportunity to be seen and heard." 

She said she also believed that music helps children to overcome the stress in studies and personal life.

"Music is that one thing that can really help a child to be determined, to be dedicated. It helps them to be focused. It helps with attention and concentration. It helps to be a part of a team and it gives them all that is necessary to be a leader. All those qualities that we try to teach in other subjects, we do it through music. One thing that is consistent amongst the most intelligent people and leaders is that they are people who got experience in music."

Heather said she loves what she does and supports her students to remain positive always.

With close to 50 schools under its brand, GEMS Education is the UAE’s biggest private school group with a large international presence.

Mariamma Varkey is a former teacher from India who moved to Dubai with her husband K.S. Varkey in 1959. They founded Our Own English High School in 1968, the first school under the group which was established by the couple’s son Sunny Varkey in 2000.

Marking the World Teachers’ Day that falls on October 5, the award ceremony was held at GEMS Dubai American Academy.

The winners were nominated by peers from among the Teacher of the Month Awardees in GEMS schools in the UAE.

The teachers were nominated based on specific criteria – the ability to design and implement inclusive teaching and learning strategies; the use of contemporary knowledge and understanding of curriculum; the ability to maintain high ethical standards and exercise sound judgement; and the ability to identify, initiate and build on opportunities to engage parents/carers in the progress of their children's learning.

Dino Varkey, CEO of the GEMS group and grandson of Mariamma Varkey, who gave away the awards said teaching is the most noble profession from which everything else is born.He said the nominees represent the very best of the GEMS group.

Sunny Varkey has also instituted the Dh1 million Emirates Innovative Teacher Award, organised in partnership between the Ministry of Education and GEMS Education; and the $1 million Global Teacher Prize, instituted and managed by the Varkey Foundation and supported by GEMS Education.