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Picture this… our teacher is up for a $1million prize

In a class
of her own:
Andria Zafirakou
with some of her
pupils at Alperton
Community School

A BRITISH teacher who greets parents in many of the 35 languages spoken at her school is in the running for a $1million prize.

Andria Zafirakou, who teaches art and textiles, is among ten global finalists picked for their outstanding contribution to the profession.

Her pupils at Alperton Community School in Brent, north-west London, come from a variety of backgrounds and she has learnt basic phrases in many of their languages including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and Portuguese.

She said greeting someone in their language ‘helps to break down barriers and enables families to engage more in the school community’.

Ms Zafirakou has helped redesign the curriculum after getting to know her pupils’ lives. She said: ‘I discovered many of my students come from crowded homes where multiple families share a single property. I’ve had students tell me they have to do their homework in the bathroom, just to grab a few moments alone.

‘I also found some were being forced to play truant to cook meals in the allocated time slot they were permitted to use their shared home kitchen. Others could not participate in extracurricular activities because they had to take on parental responsibilities.

‘Discovering all this prompted me to organise additional provision within the school day and often at weekends to help students have the opportunity to progress.’ The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize attracted 30,000 entries from 173 countries. Other finalists come from Turkey, South Africa, Colombia, Philippines, the US, Brazil, Belgium, Australia and Norway.

In a video message praising them, Bill Gates said a great teacher can be ‘the most important factor’ in a student’s education.

The Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist said: ‘When you think about what drives progress and improvement in the world, education is like a master switch — one that opens up all sorts of opportunities.’

The winner of the prize will be announced in Dubai on March 18.