A North London teacher of Greek-Cypriot origin has won a competition to find the world’s best teacher. Andria Zafirakou, who teaches art and textiles at Alperton Community School in Brent, came first among teachers nominated from more than 170 countries and was awarded a prize worth $1 million.
During her acceptance speech, Zafirakou, who is the first UK winner of the Global Teacher Prize, called for more support for the “power of the arts” in school, particularly for the poorest communities.
“Too often we neglect this power of the arts to actually transform lives, particularly in the poorest communities,” she said, adding that the “buzz” of the multiethnic population in her part of North London is a “beautiful challenge.”
Zafirakou has repeatedly spoken about the disadvantages facing many of her pupils, with many of them coming from crowded homes where multiple families share a single property. For this reason, she organized extra lessons to give pupils a quiet place to work.
The prize was awarded on Sunday in a lavish ceremony in Dubai, attended by racing driver Lewis Hamilton, Olympic champion Mo Farah, former US vice president Al Gore and former UK prime minister Tony Blair.
The award was launched in 2015 by the Varkey Foundation with the aim of improving the status of the teaching profession.
British Prime Minister Theresa May praised Zafirakou in a video message saying that great teachers needed “resilience, ingenuity and a generous heart.”