Sharjah: An Indian teacher in the UAE who went the extra mile for students during the COVID-19 pandemic has won the ‘2021 Dedicated Teacher Awards’ by Cambridge University Press for the Middle East and North Africa region.
Annamma Lucy, who teaches Social Studies to Grade 7 and 8 students at GEMS Our Own English High School (OOEHS) in Sharjah (Boys’ Branch), created a free ‘Learning Journey’ virtual programme for students. She invited experts from various fields and colleagues to coach students in art, coding, augmented reality videos and other areas. Students were also trained in public speaking and soft skills, and soon pupils from other schools also joined the programme.
Lucy, 46, also donated funds for disadvantaged students in Africa during the pandemic. “When a friend of mine informed me about the plight of students in Tanzania, I found they did not have chairs to sit on in class nor any food to eat, I undertook a pledge to support them financially and have been doing so on a monthly basis… I inculcate values among my avid learners to lend a helping hand to the less fortunate, to bring a smile to their faces,” she said.
According to her nomination brief on the award’s website, Lucy is “a teacher whose impact goes beyond the classroom. She has given up her personal and family time to be with poor students, visited Uganda, Iraq, villages in India, encouraged students to participate in UNICEF Kids Power. As an EXPO 2020 [Dubai] volunteer, she has hosted rewired talks and encouraged students across UAE to participate in meaningful conversations on education”.
Lucy, from Bengaluru in India, “fondly” remembers a child in her class who was on the autism spectrum. It was her first experience working with a student of determination, so she did a lot of research to understand his difficulty to provide the right support. After initial struggles, Lucy helped the student to write letters using the tracing and colouring method. Working with his parents, she also helped him reach beyond his “low social tolerance”. The student showed “a lot of progress” and was able to interact with his peers and complete his daily school activities independently with a set of pictorial instructions that she prepared for him. The student continued with the school until Grade 9, when he and his family relocated to his home country. He will be writing his 12th grade board exam this year.
Losing her parents
Speaking about her journey to becoming a teacher, Lucy told Gulf News: “My upbringing was under the tutelage of the Good Shepherd nuns, as I lost my parents at the age of three… Now, as a teacher, I make a humble attempt to emulate their care and kindness in my own work with my students.... With all humility, I express my sincere gratitude to all.”
Lucy, who is a sports enthusiast and a hockey player, started her teaching career in 1997 in Mysore, India, after completing her teacher training there. In 2007, she moved to the UAE as an overseas recruit to teach Social Studies at OOEHS Boys’ Branch in Sharjah.
She is one of the six winners of the newly-launched regional categories of the global award, chosen from a record-breaking 13,000 nominations from 112 countries. Among the criteria, the judges looked at whether a teacher demonstrated innovative practices, provided fantastic pastoral care and prepared students for their futures beyond school.
Prizes and dedication
The six winners have won a host of prizes, including class sets of books or digital resources. They will also feature on a thank you page at the front of every new Cambridge University Press Education textbook from May and receive an invitation to the Cambridge Panel, an online community of specialists that helps to shape the Press’ education publishing.
A public vote is now open to decide who wins the overall Dedicated Teacher Award by Cambridge University Press, the publishing division of the University of Cambridge, UK. The vote will close on May 7 and the winner will be announced in mid-May.
Impact of pandemic
“This year’s awards are particularly pertinent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the extraordinary efforts of teachers to continue their students’ learning, even when schools were closed,” Cambridge University Press said.
‘Well-deserved thank you’
Rod Smith, managing director for education, Cambridge University Press, said: ‘At Cambridge, we want to join with people around the world to recognise and celebrate teachers who go above and beyond every day. All around the world, teachers do fantastic work. They play a vital role in the lives of their students, and often make a difference without even knowing it. We believe that well-supported teachers are central to high quality pedagogy and the well-being of learners, and the Dedicated Teacher Awards are a way to say a well-deserved thank you.”