Rohan Roberts
  • Highest Middle East representation for the Global Teacher Prize top 50 shortlist as others are nominated from the UAE, Oman and Jordan
  • Shaikha Al Shehhi, an Emirati teacher from Ras Al Khaimah and Rohan Roberts from GEMS school in Dubai make the honours list
Rohan Roberts

Two teachers from the UAE are among the teachers from the Middle East who have been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2017.

Now in its third year, the US$1 million award is the largest prize of its kind and is awarded under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

The two UAE teachers shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2017 are:

  • Shaikha Al Shehhi, an English teacher from Al Dhait Girls Secondary School, Ras Al Khaimah.
  • Rohan Roberts, who teaches the GEMS Honours Progamme and Astronomy at the GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis in Dubai, and also oversees the GEMS Futures Curriculum in three schools in Dubai: First Point School, GEMS Modern Academy, and GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis.

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. By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of millions of teachers all over the world.

Rohan Roberts leads an Honours programme designed for gifted students from 40 GEMS schools in Dubai. Using a scientific perspective, he keeps up with findings in pedagogy and neuroscience, while using his many interests as astronomer, painter, author and musician to identify and develop the multiple talents of his students. Many of Rohan’s students are high achievers, progressing to international universities with full scholarships, gaining outstanding exam results and repeatedly winning the Cambridge International Award for distinguished performance in English.

Shaikha Al Shehhi began teaching as a child on her doorstep with her neighbours’ children, drawing and writing in chalk on the door of her home. As a teacher, she has taken a lead in educating her pupils in global citizenry, particularly in environmental matters, with her “Reducing Carbon Footprint” initiative. She has received a number of awards, the most important of which are the Khalifa Award for Education and the Creative Teacher Award 2016.

The other teachers from the Middle East are Ali Al Matari, a mathematics teacher at Al Mutanabi Primary School, Ash Sharqiyah North Governorate, Sultanate of Oman and Sahar Fayyad, a primary school teacher from Amman, Jordan.

The top 50 have been shortlisted from over 20,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries from around the world. The top 50 shortlist has representatives from 37 countries and by highlighting their stories the Varkey Foundation hopes that the public will be able to join in passionate debates about the importance of teachers. The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday 19 March 2017.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said:

“We were overwhelmed by the huge support the Global Teacher Prize received this year. 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.

“The tens of thousands of nominations and applications we received from every corner of the planet is testimony to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives.”

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said:

“I count my teachers as among the most influential people in my life. Teachers are entrusted with nurturing the potential of the young and helping them blossom as productive and responsible members of society. It is hard to underestimate their value.

“I applaud the launch of the Global Teacher Prize, which recognises their worth. The award is in line with my Global Education First Initiative, launched in 2012, which aims to give momentum to the worldwide movement to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning and foster global citizenship.”

The top 50 shortlisted teachers have now been judged by a Prize Committee with the final ten candidates to be announced in February 2017. The winner will then be chosen from ten finalists by a Global Teacher Prize Academy. All ten finalists will be invited to Dubai for the Award ceremony at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) on Sunday 19 March next year where the winner will be announced live.

The Varkey Foundation believes every child deserves a vibrant, stimulating learning environment that awakens and supports their full potential. We believe nothing is more important to achieving this than the passion and quality of teachers.We support global teaching capacity and seed excellence and innovation in the next generation of educators. We also founded the Global Teacher Prize to shine a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world.

The top 50 shortlisted teachers is narrowed down to the final ten teachers by a Prize Committee. The winner will then be chosen from these ten finalists by the Global Teacher Prize Academy. The Prize Committee and the Academy will look for evidence that applicants meet the following criteria:

  • Achieving demonstrable student learning outcomes in the classroom
  • Recognition of a teacher’s achievements in the classroom and beyond from pupils, colleagues, head-teachers or members of the wider community.
  • Achievements in the community beyond the classroom that provide unique and distinguished models of excellence for the teaching profession and others
  • Employing innovative and effective instructional practices that are replicable and scalable to influence the quality of education globally.
  • Helping children become global citizens through providing them with a values-based education, which equips young people with life and work skills and prepares them for a world where they will encounter people from many different religions, cultures and nationalities.
  • Encouraging teachers to stay in the profession and develop their skills as well as encouraging others to join the teaching profession.

The Global Teacher Prize Academy includes prominent names such as Freida Pinto, Actress, United States; Wendy Kopp, co-founder and CEO of Teach for All; Brett Wigdortz, founder and CEO of Teach First, Nick Booth, CEO, The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, James E Ryan, Dean and Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education, United States, Jeffrey D. Sachs, world-renowned professor of economics and special advisor to the U.N and Lewis Pugh, the only person to have completed a long distance swim in every ocean of the world.

The Global Teacher Prize winner will be paid the prize money in equal installments over ten years, and the Varkey Foundation will provide the winner with financial counseling. Without compromising their work in the classroom, the winner will be asked to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation, attending public events and speaking in public forums about improving the prestige of the teaching profession. A condition of winning the prize is that the winner remains as a classroom teacher for at least five years.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers will be responsible for ensuring that the balloting process is fair and accurate.  Criminal record and other background checks will be conducted on the shortlisted candidates. Top ten finalists from Global Teacher Prize 2016 could not apply for Global Teacher Prize 2017.

The Global Teacher Prize is part of the Varkey Foundation’s long-standing commitment to improve the status of teachers.  In November 2013, the foundation published the Global Teacher Status Index, the first attempt to compare attitudes towards teachers in 21 countries.  The index found that there were significant differences between the status of teachers worldwide. The survey also found that in many countries, between a third and half of parents would “probably” or “definitely not” encourage their children to enter the teaching profession.