Feb 19, 2016 by

Two American Teachers Among the Top Ten for International Teaching Prize


February 17, 2016: The Varkey Foundation today announced the ten finalists for the second annual $1 million Global Teacher Prize. Americans, Joe Fatheree from Effingham High School, Effingham, Illinois and Michael Soskil from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, are among the finalists for the world’s largest teaching prize.


Referred to as the Nobel Prize for teaching, The Global Teacher Prize recognizes one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize shines a light on the important role teachers play in society and showcases the work of millions of teachers around the world.

The top ten were selected from 8,000 applications representing 148 countries. The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday March 13, 2016.

Additional Resources: What Makes a Star Teacher? – The Haberman Foundation

The inaugural prize went to Nancie Atwell of Maine’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Nancie donated the entire prize back to the school for facility repairs and tuition assistance.


The Finalists for the 2016 Global Teacher Prize include:


Joe Fatheree (USA) approaches teaching media production by combining project-based learning with real-life job opportunities. Joe engages his students, many are low-performing readers, by developing unique approaches that include using hip hop to explore literature. Joe’s students produce music, books and short films to industry standards covering topics such as poverty, bullying and homelessness. He was Illinois Teacher of the Year in 2007 and received the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009.


Michael Soskil (USA) has created a global classroom that uses technology to connect his students to international projects. His students have interacted with over 70 countries and the International Space Station. Soskil’s students have achieved real-world success by raising more than $12,000 for water filters for Nairobi’s Kibera slum. They have traded math lessons for Swahili lessons with students in Kenya. Michael’s school has exceeded state averages in tests, despite poverty in the area. He is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, NGO advisor and has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.


Robin Chaurasiya (India), a former US Air Force Lieutenant, moved to India after serving in the military and helping to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. She founded a non-profit school in Mumbai that serves girls aged 12-20. Students are survivors of trafficking and daughters of sex workers. Her curriculum focuses on issues that affect the girls’ lives, such as caste, class, religion, environment and healthcare. Robin’s students often become teachers and community leaders.


Ayub Mohamud (Kenya) teaches business in Nairobi. His curriculum equips students with the skills to become social entrepreneurs. One idea developed by his students produces roofing tiles from waste could change the lives of millions of slum dwellers. Ayub combats terrorism, extremism and radicalism through engagement programs in Kenyan schools.


Colin Hegarty (United Kingdom) teaches math in London to students ages 11-18. He believes there is no such thing as “being bad at math,” but rather, it is a matter of tuition and support. He has developed more than 1,500 math videos that have been viewed more than 5 million times.


Hanan Alhroub (Palestine) grew up in a refugee camp and after seeing the impact of violence on children, Hanan decided to pursue primary education. Hanan has devoted her work to helping students that require special support at school because of exposure to violence. The ongoing conflict has made Palestinian schools tense environments. Hanan develops trusting relationships with her students and emphasizes the importance of literacy. Her approach has led to a decline in violent behaviour in school and inspired colleagues to adopt similar methods.


Kazuya Takahashi (Japan) developed a program to harness students’ creativity that includes LEGO-based instruction and, with help from the Japan Space Elevator Association and JAXA, organized the first space elevator competition for high school students. He encourages his students to be creative and independent in a culture where conforming is the norm.


Maarit Rossi (Finland) teaches math to students in Finland by asking them to solve real-life problem in fun ways. Maarit works to prove that math is a fun and useful tool that helps make sense of the world. She has co-authored 9 text books and her school consistently ranks above average in national tests.


Richard Johnson (Australia) is a science teacher that launched the country’s first science lab for students, for which he received the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science Teaching. Since the lab was set up, the school has seen academic performance improvements.


Aqueela Asifi (Pakistan) is an Afghan refugee who has taught at Pakistan’s Kot Chandana camp for over 20 years and has set up a school for girls. Today, there are 9 schools in the camp with over 1,500 students, including 900 girls. She was presented with the UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award in 2015.


Quote from Professor Stephen Hawking who announced the top ten finalists of the Global Teacher Prize 2016:


“The human mind is an incredible thing. It can conceive of the magnificence of the heavens, and the intricacies of the basic components of matter.


“Yet for each mind to achieve its full potential, it needs a spark. The spark of enquiry, excitement, and passion. Often that spark comes from a teacher.


“There was a teacher behind every great artist, every great philosopher, every great scientist. However difficult life can be, teachers have always been there, behind the scenes, showing us the way forward.


“I wasn’t the easiest person to teach. I was slow to learn to read, and my handwriting was untidy. But, at the age of fourteen, my teacher, Dikran Tahta, showed me how to harness my energy, and encouraged me to think creatively about maths. He made me wonder. He made me curious. He opened up new worlds to me. That is what a great teacher can do.


“This is why I am a strong supporter of the Global Teacher Prize. Thanks to Sunny Varkey, and the Varkey Foundation. We need great teachers to grow great minds, or we will never solve the world’s most pressing problems.


“It is therefore my pleasure, to announce the top ten finalists of the Global Teacher Prize 2016”


Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said:


“I want to congratulate Joe Fatheree and Michael Soskil, along with Robin Chaurasiya, for being selected as top ten finalists from such a huge number of talented and dedicated teachers. I hope their stories will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the US and throughout the world every day.


“The thousands of nominations and applications we received from every corner of the planet is testimony to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives.”


Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said:


“I count my teachers as among the most influential people in my life. Teachers are entrusted with nurturing the potential of the young and helping them blossom as productive and responsible members of society. It is hard to underestimate their value.


“I applaud the launch of the Global Teacher Prize, which recognizes their worth. The award is in line with my Global Education First Initiative, launched in 2012, which aims to give momentum to the worldwide movement to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning and foster global citizenship.”


Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said:


“We were so excited by the plans to launch the Global Teacher Prize. I also want to recognise the leadership of Sunny Varkey, Founder of GEMS Education, who had the idea for this prize and is a great partner for our Foundation.”


Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey, who sits on the Global Teacher Prize Academy that chooses the final winner, said:


“When I was starting out, I was inspired by an older, more experienced actor, who told me that he thought I ought to go into acting professionally. That’s the kind of mentoring and personal support that every young person needs to realise their potential.


“It’s the kind of encouragement and guidance that good teachers give to their pupils every day.  And that is why I support the Varkey GEMS Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize. However much we achieve in life, we all began learning the basics from a teacher in a classroom.  Those that teach – devoting their talents and time to nurturing the talents of others – deserve to be respected and celebrated.”


After winning the Global Teacher Prize 2015, Nancie Atwell, a teacher from Maine, US, said:


“I’m honored and proud to receive the Global Teacher Prize. I love my teaching life – the intellectual, social, and personal challenges of working with young people and the satisfaction of developing methods that transform their lives and give them perspective on the lives of others. I am grateful to the Varkey Foundation for shining a light on teaching as a powerful profession, one of fulfillment, creativity, and lasting worth.”


The winner will then be chosen from ten finalists by a Global Teacher Prize Academy. All ten finalists will be invited to Dubai for the Award ceremony at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) in March this year where the winner will be announced live.


Further information about the top 10 shortlist will be available from Wednesday 17th February here: To join the conversation online follow #TeachersMatter on: and




  1. The Varkey Foundation believes every child deserves a vibrant, stimulating learning environment that awakens and supports their full potential. We believe nothing is more important to achieving this than the passion and quality of teachers.We support global teaching capacity and seed excellence and innovation in the next generation of educators. We also founded the Global Teacher Prize to shine a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world.


  1. The top 50 shortlisted teachers was narrowed down to the final ten teachers by a Prize Committee. The winner will be chosen from these ten finalists by the Global Teacher Prize Academy. The Prize Committee and the Academy will look for evidence that applicants meet the following criteria:


  • Recognition of a teacher’s achievements in the classroom and beyond from pupils, colleagues, head-teachers or members of the wider community.
  • Employing innovative and effective instructional practices
  • Achieving demonstrable student learning outcomes in the classroom.
  • Ensuring children receive a values-based education that prepares them to be global citizens in a world where they will encounter people from many different religions, cultures and nationalities.
  • Achievements in the community beyond the classroom that provide unique and distinguished models of excellence for the teaching profession and others.
  • Encouraging others to join the teaching profession. Contributing to public debates on the teaching profession, whether through writing articles, blogs, media participation, social media campaigns, events or conferences.


  1. The Prize Committee includes Vikas Pota, CEO of the Varkey Foundation; Sir Michael Tomlinson, former UK Chief Inspector of Schools; Ann Mroz, Editor, Times Education Supplement; David Edwards, Dep. General Secretary of Education International, Jacque Kahura, top ten finalist from Kenya for Global Teacher Prize 2015, Jiang Xueqin, Deputy Principal, Tsinghua International School China, Vandana Goyal, Chief Executive Officer of the Akanksha Foundation and Nancie Atwell, winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2015.


  1. The Global Teacher Prize Academy includes prominent names such as Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey; Carina Wong, Deputy Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Wendy Kopp, co-founder and CEO of Teach for All; Brett Wigdortz, founder and CEO of Teach First, Nick Booth, CEO, The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Jeffrey D. Sachs, world-renowned professor of economics and special advisor to the U.N and Lewis Pugh, the only person to have completed a long distance swim in every ocean of the world.


  1. The Global Teacher Prize winner will be paid the prize money in equal installments over ten years, and the Varkey Foundation will provide the winner with financial counseling. Without compromising their work in the classroom, the winner will be asked to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation, attending public events and speaking in public forums about improving the prestige of the teaching profession. A condition of winning the prize is that the winner remains as a classroom teacher for at least five years.


  1. PriceWaterhouseCoopers will be responsible for ensuring that the balloting process is fair and accurate.  Criminal record and other background checks will be conducted on the shortlisted candidates. Top ten finalists from Global Teacher Prize 2015 could not apply for Global Teacher Prize 2016.
  2. The Global Teacher Prize is part of the Varkey Foundation’s long-standing commitment to improve the status of teachers.  In November 2013, the foundation published the Global Teacher Status Index, the first attempt to compare attitudes towards teachers in 21 countries.  The index found that there were significant differences between the status of teachers worldwide. The survey also found that in many countries, between a third and half of parents would “probably” or “definitely not” encourage their children to enter the teaching profession. The full Global Teacher Status Index can be found at:

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