A British arts and textiles instructor has won a $1 million prize given annually to the world’s best teacher.
Andria Zafirakou, who teaches at a community school in north-west London, is the first U.K. winner of the Global Teacher Prize, according to the Guardian.
Zafirakou was honored on Sunday in Dubai at a ceremony attended by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
In her acceptance speech, Zafirakou spoke about the importance of arts education and called attention to the hardships many of her students face.
Zafirakou teaches in one of the poorest communities in England. To connect with her students who come from a diverse range of backgrounds in a borough where 130 languages are spoken, Zafirakou reportedly learned phrases in Gujarati, Hindi and Tamil.
“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 told the Guardian.
“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 organized quiet spaces and extended lessons on the weekdays and weekends. She also redesigned the curriculum to gear it more toward her students and started a girls-only sports club.
Started in 2015 by an education charity, the Global Teacher Prize aims to bring more recognition to the teaching profession. This years’ finalists included teachers from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, Turkey and the U.S.