The Duke of Cambridge has paid tribute to the “incredible work” of the teaching profession as a Nobel-style award worth $1m was handed to a teacher from Palestine.
Hanan al-Hroub, who works with children who have grown up exposed to violence, was given the second annual Global Teacher prize at a star-studded ceremony in Dubai.
Looking delighted as she was handed the award, Hroub said: “I did it, I won!”
In his video link, Prince William said he had been taught by “some of the best teachers in the world”.
“I know what an incredible teacher can mean to a child,” he said. “A good teacher holds the power to influence, inspire and shape a young person’s life for the better. They represent the key to real change in this world.”
The prince added: “Teachers are also uniquely placed to recognise and support the most vulnerable and troubled children in our society, reaching young people early on in their education and providing them with the extra support they need and giving them the best possible chance in life. This is an incredible responsibility.”
He offered his congratulations to the 10 finalists, including the UK maths teacher Colin Hegarty, and to teachers everywhere, saying: “Thank you for all your incredible work.”
The winner was announced by Pope Francis via video message.
“I would like to congratulate the teacher Hanan al-Hroub for winning this prestigious prize due to the importance that she gave to the ‘playing’ part in the education of the children,” he said.
In her acceptance speech, given in Arabic, she said: “I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage. I accept this as a win for all teachers in general and Palestinian teachers in particular.
“Each day, the role of the teacher is reinforced and its importance confirmed as the world questions what future we want for our children.”
Speaking after the ceremony, Hegarty, who has created more than 1,000 maths videos explaining the subject to children said: “I’m not disappointed at all. I spent an hour with Hanan earlier and she is an amazing, inspirational woman. The right person won, without question.”
“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” he added. “To be able to tell your story, as small as it may be in the grand scheme of things, is great. It’s been great to be able to talk about maths.”
Hroub grew up in the Bethlehem refugee camp, and was regularly exposed to violence. She went into primary education after her own children were left traumatised from witnessing a shooting on their way home from school.
Hroub promotes the slogan “no to violence” and uses a specialist approach with children that she developed herself, and has written about in her book, We Play We Learn. It involves developing trusting, respectful and affectionate relationships, encouraging youngsters to work together and rewarding positive behaviour.
She is planning to spend the money on helping students and teachers around the world to help them progress in their education and careers.
The star-studded ceremony included tributes from the actors Matthew McConaughey and Salma Hayek, as well as a number of politicians.
The former US president Bill Clinton addressed the 10 candidates in a video message, saying: “You don’t hear it often enough, but your work is truly heroic.”
This year’s finalists were drawn from around the world, including the UK, Pakistan, Kenya, Palestine, the US, Japan, Finland, Australia and India.
The winner receives $1m (£706,000) and will be asked to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation, attending events and speaking about their work.
But they are also required to remain working as a classroom teacher for at least five years as a condition of winning the award.
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