A Song and Dance About Teaching
Take a moment to think about how many teachers there are in your city and country. Now, consider how many there must be in the world. Out of all of those teachers, only one can be selected as the winner of the Global Teacher Prize. And you can guarantee that whoever takes that prize home with them must truly be an aspiring tutor indeed.
The Global Teacher Prize has been likened to the Nobel Prize for Teaching, and the competition has been whittled down to the final ten contestants. The competition was created by a GEMS Education group based in Dubai, called the Varkey Foundation.
But this isn’t a long-running competition that teachers around the world have been vying over for decades or longer. The Global Teacher Prize is only in its first year, and yet received entries from almost 130 countries.
And the prize money shouldn’t be left unsaid; there is a $1 million prize (£650,000) for the tutor in first place. Founder and Chairperson of the Foundation, Sunny Varkey, said the prize money is to encourage teaching to return to its rightful position as the most respected profession.
“The many applications prove that the prize is not only about money,” he added, “it is also about unearthing thousands of stories of inspiration.”
And one of these inspirational stories – and a finalist in the competition – is Richard Spencer, a science teacher from Middlesborough, who is the only teacher from the UK still in the contest.
Mr Spencers teaches biology at Middlesborough College, but he has a rather different approach to helping his students retain what they learn in his class.
In addition to the more traditional lesson plan and science experiments, Mr Spencer engages his students with a variety of activities, including role play, learning games, poems, and song and dance.
This method of teaching has been shown to be so effective that even when seeing former students years after they have left his classroom, these students can remember the songs and poems from his class.
“The students do enjoy it, but most of all, they learn a lot from joining in,” Mr Spencer explained. “We do other things as well… but this just livens things up for them, and they respond fantastically well.”
Mr Spencer will find out next month if he has won the Global Teacher Prize. But in the meantime, the singing science teacher is just getting on with his life – with a little side adventure when meeting with the Pope.
But whoever does take the spot of greatest teacher in the world will be asked to serve as the Varkey Foundation’s global ambassador. This will involve speaking about the Foundation’s work and attending events – as well, of course, as winning the prize money.
You may be thinking that the winner might be discouraged from teaching if they were attending lots of events and had $1 million – which is why there is a condition of winning the prize. The winner has to remain a teacher for at least another five years, and the prize money will be paid in regular installments over the course of ten years.
“The huge global support we have received for this prize is testimony to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives,” exclaimed Mr Varkey.
The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum, at a special ceremony in Dubai next month. We’ll make sure to update you on how Mr Spencer gets on!