Teachers are the unsung heroes of today as many educators are going beyond their usual duties to help young people achieve their dreams. Recently, one teacher was lauded for changing the lives of her students and transforming her community, and she won a $1 million prize for all her efforts.
Canadian teacher Maggie MacDonnell was awarded the $1 million Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai. According to The Guardian, she was among 10 finalists chosen from 20,000 nominations and applications from over 170 countries.
According to MacDonnell’s biography, she has spent the last six years teaching in a fly-in Inuit village called Salluit, which is located in the Canadian Arctic. It has a population of just over 1,300 and it cannot be reached by road, only by air.
Because of its remote location, Salluit is an area of deprivation, isolation, and limited resources. As a result, the instances of teenage pregnancies, self-harm and drug abuse are high.
In her acceptance speech at the awarding ceremony, MacDonnell said that she has witnessed over 10 suicides.
“As a teacher, when I come to school the morning after there is an empty desk in that classroom,” she said. “There is stillness and silence. Thank you for bringing global attention to them.”
To help her students, MacDonnell helped set up a fitness center, a community kitchen, and a second-hand store. All of these facilities have not only benefited the teenagers but the whole Salluit community as well.
By providing learning and volunteering opportunities for the young people of Salluit, school attendance has dramatically improved, and MacDonnell’s students have also found a way to give back to worthy causes despite their own challenges. It was said that the teenagers have managed to fundraise over $37,000 for Diabetes Prevention.
Apart from doing all of these for her students and the community, MacDonnell has also been a temporary foster parent in Salluit, including to some of her own students.
Speaking with “Quebec AM” host Susan Campbell (via CBC News), MacDonnell said that it has been an absolute honor to win the Global Teacher Prize.
“It leaves you a bit speechless to know that you’ve been recognized in this way,” she said. “Teachers, we’re just public servants in Canada, and we’re pretty humble, regular folk.”
On what she plans to do with her cash prize, MacDonnell said that she’ll use it to fulfill one of her dreams.
“My dream would be to start an NGO with my students that could focus on bringing back the culture of kayaking to the community, but through a means of environmental stewardship and youth engagement,” said the teacher.
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