Tuesday 4th of July 2017

When the world’s best teacher met the president of Chile

Teachers have the power to transform the lives of their students and their wider communities, the world’s best teacher told the president of Chile on 21 June.

Global Teacher Prize 2017 winner Maggie MacDonnell met with President Michelle Bachelet at La Moneda Palace, along with two of her students and two top-50 prize finalists from Chile.

“It was very significant for me as a teacher, on Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, to have been part of such a powerful moment,” Maggie said of the meeting, “We not only exchanged our experiences on the educational reality of our countries, but two young indigenous women from Canada had the opportunity to meet and meet the first female president of Chile. It was an honour for me to witness that moment.”

The Varkey Foundation awarded Maggie its top prize at this year’s Global Education and Skills Forum in recognition of her life-changing work as a teacher in the Inuit village of Salluit.

Salluit is one the northernmost communities in the Canadian Artic and can only be reached by air. The people who live there face both social isolation and economic deprivation – in part a legacy of the abuse suffered by Canadian indigenous peoples.

That inequality and isolation has taken a heavy toll on young people living in the village, Maggie told the Varkey Foundation. A disproportionate number of young men have taken their own lives, while girls face discriminatory attitudes, high levels of teenage pregnancies and sexual violence.

High teacher turnover and a lack of consistent leadership also mean that the village’s school has struggled to provide a good education to its students.

Since coming to Salluit six years ago, Maggie has worked tirelessly to change the lives of her students. Today, school attendance is up, thanks to Maggie’s focus on programmes which promote students’ knowledge, skills and self-worth. She has boosted girls’ participation in life-skills programmes by over 500 percent.

Maggie isn’t just a teacher. She has also worked to provide her students with hot meals, work experience and a fitness centre. She has sought out funding for projects to help her community and encouraged her students to do the same. She has even been a foster parent to children in her village – including some of her own students.

Since winning the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize in March, Maggie has also worked to promote the cause of teachers around the world. On 20 June, she joined Chile’s minister of education to launch the Global Teacher Prize Chile 2017, a USD $10,000,000 prize to find the country’s best teacher.

Maggie shows the power of teachers to change the lives of their students for the better – as well as to dare them to dream of a better future.

The Global Teacher Prize has helped put the name of Salluit village on the lips of presidents, prime ministers and policy-makers – as well as in international media. Today, the courage of a little village in the Canadian Artic is being talked about in the very highest corridors of power.

If you know of a teacher like Maggie, why not nominate them for next year’s Global Teacher Prize?



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