A British teacher has been crowned as the "World's Best Teacher". Andria Zafirakou defeated more than 30,000 nominees in 173 countries. She has also been awarded a prize worth $1 million (£720,000).
Zafirakou, who teaches arts and textiles in Alperton community school in north London, is the first British woman to win the prize. The prize was presented by the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE in Dubai in association with Varkey Foundation.
While accepting the award, she said, "I was shocked. I was completely overwhelmed. I didn't realize it was me."
The 39-year-old teacher has learned the basic phrases in 35 languages including Gujarati, Hindi, and Tamil and also visited many students' home to make them feel welcomed.
This included learning basic greetings in many of the 35 languages spoken at the school, including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, and Portuguese, to help parents feel welcome and included.
"By getting pupils to open up about their home lives, I discovered that many of my students come from crowded homes where multiple families share a single property," Zafirakou said. "It's often so crowded and noisy I've had students tell me they have to do their homework in the bathroom, just to grab a few moments alone so they can concentrate."
Zafirakou also spoke about why arts education is important to the pupils these days. She is quoted saying, "I have seen how the arts help students to communicate. The arts help to give so much confidence and really create incredible young people."
The UK Prime Minister Theresa May congratulated Zafirakou during the ceremony through a video message as she said, "Being a great teacher requires resilience, ingenuity and a generous heart. These are the qualities that you share with your students every day. So, thank you for all you have done and continue to do."
Asked how she will use the prize money, the "world's best teacher" said that she is going be patient with it. "I think it would be really fantastic if I could think about how the arts could be celebrated even further within our school community."
Zafirakou will receive $1 million in installments while she has to work as a classroom teacher for at least five years. She will also have to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation.
The nine other finalists in the competition were — Nurten Akkuş (Turkey), Marjorie Brown (South Africa), Luis Gutierrez (Colombia), Jesus Insilada (Philippines), Glenn Lee (United States), Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima (Brazil), Koen Timmers (Belgium), Eddie Woo (Australia), and Barbara Anna Zielonka (Norway).
Canadian teacher Maggie MacDonnell won the title last year for her work with indigenous students in a very remote village of Salluit in northern Quebec.