Teacher of indigenous community in Canadian Arctic wins $1 million Global Teacher Prize 2017
Maggie MacDonnell, who teaches at the Ikusik School in Salluit, a remote village in the Canadian Arctic, won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize 2017 instituted by Varkey Foundation.
The announcement was made via a special video message from the International Space Station broadcast into the Global Teacher Prize ceremony – taking place at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) 2017 in Dubai on Sunday– by astronaut Thomas Pesquet. He said, “I’d like to be the first person in history to thank all the world’s teachers from space."
In a special congratulatory video message broadcast into the ceremony hall, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said: “Maggie MacDonnell – on behalf of all Canadians – from one teacher to
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After completing her Masters degree, Maggie MacDonnell sought out opportunities to teach indigenous communities in Canada and for the last six years has been a teacher in the Canadian Arctic. Due to the harsh conditions, there are very high rates of teacher turnover which is a significant barrier to education in the Arctic. Many teachers leave their post midway through the year, and many apply for stress leave.
"Besides isolation and limited resources, the area faces tremendous gender issues where teenage pregnancies are common and teenagers often turn to drinking and smoking, and even drugs and self-harm, as forms of escape and release. There is also a high rate of suicide. In 2015 alone there were six suicides, all affecting young males between the ages of 18 and 25," said MacDonnell in her address at the award ceremony.
MacDonnell's citation stated: "Her approach has been about turning students from problems to solutions. She has created a life skills programme specifically for girls which has seen a 500 per cent improvement in girls’ registration. Maggie has also dramatically improved school attendance by getting her students involved in running a community kitchen, attending suicide prevention training and hiking through national parks to understand environmental stewardship." She has also established a fitness centre for the community.
Now in its third year, the $1 million Global Teacher Prize is the largest award of its kind, and was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the society.
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