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Alperton Community School’s Andria Zafirakou scoops £720k international prize for being ‘world’s best teacher’

PUBLISHED: 10:40 19 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:02 19 March 2018

Andria Zafirakou winner of the $1m Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize with her pupils at Alperton Community School (Picture: Suzanne Plunkett)

Andria Zafirakou winner of the $1m Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize with her pupils at Alperton Community School (Picture: Suzanne Plunkett)

Suzanne Plunkett

An Alperton schoolteacher has been named the best in the world, beating 30,000 entrants to a £720,000 prize.

Alperton Community School teacher Andria Zafirakou?. Photo by Alperton Community SchoolAlperton Community School teacher Andria Zafirakou?. Photo by Alperton Community School

Andria Zafirakou, an arts and textiles teacher at Alperton Community School in Stanley Avenue, scooped the fourth annual Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize for $1million in Dubai on Sunday.

The foundation prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.

Ms Zafirakou has been described as “going against the grain”, taking the time to understand student lives beyond school by visiting their homes, riding with them on the bus and sometimes standing at the school gates with police officers to welcome pupils as they arrive at the start of the school day.

She has learnt basic “hello” and “goodbye” greetings in many of the 35 languages spoken at the school, including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and Portuguese.

She said: “The community where I teach in Brent is beautifully diverse and indeed is one of the most multicultural communities in the world.

“What is amazing is whatever issues students are having at home, whatever is missing from their life or causing them pain, our school is theirs.

“I know if our school could open at six o’clock in the morning, there would be a queue of children waiting outside at five o’clock in the morning. That’s how phenomenal they are.”

The other finalists at this year’s ceremony were from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, Turkey and the US.

In 2016, Colin Hegarty, a maths teacher from Preston Manor School in Carlton Avenue East, Wembley, was pipped to the winning spot by Hanan al Hroub from Palestine.

Ms Zafirakou will serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation. She will also be required to remain working as a classroom teacher for at least five years and will be paid the prize money in instalments.

Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North, said: “I knew she would win this as she’s one hell of a woman, She’s got the personality and the charisma and is an amazing advocate for teachers.”

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Brent Council leader, said: “Congratulations to Andria on this amazing and well deserved achievement, beating over 30,000 other teachers from around the world. This award shows her outstanding dedication and commitment to supporting young people’s learning and development and ensuring that every student has the chance to succeed.

“I’m proud that with great teachers like Andria we are raising the hopes and aspirations for all our young people to be the best and to be the next generation of leaders and captains of industry everywhere. ”

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said: “I want to congratulate Andria Zafirakou for winning the Global Teacher Prize 2018. I hope Andria’s story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world every day.”

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