A London arts and textiles teacher won a $1 million prize after being named the best teacher in the world.
Andria Zafirakou, who teaches at a northwest London community school (the U.K. equivalent of a public school) in one of the poorest areas in the country, is the first British winner of the annual Global Teacher Prize, presented by the Varkey Foundation. Zafirakou made forging a better school environment and relationships with her students a top priority. She learned basic phrases in languages such as Gujarati, Hindi, and Tamil in order to better communicate with pupils. After visiting the homes of some students, where she found noise and overcrowding, Zafirakou added additional lessons during the day and on the weekend to give kids quiet places they could study and work. She also overhauled the curriculum “to make it relevant to pupils,” The Guardianreported. She has yet to say what she’ll do with the prize money, which will be paid out in installments, but in her speech after receiving the award in Dubai, she highlighted the importance of the arts. “I have seen how the arts help students to communicate. The arts help to give so much confidence and really create incredible young people,” she said.