Pope announcing Palestinian Hanan Al Hroub as Global Teacher Prize winner, spotlights teaching

Teachers around the world are known for the sacrifices they make, but often with little recognition and puny pay.

Now a Palestinian teacher who grew up in a refugee camp has won a $1 million global teaching prize, with Pope Francis announcing it in a video message has shone a spotlight on the profession.

Hanan al Hroub who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp is now a teacher of refugees herself, specializing in supporting children traumatized by violence.

She teaches in the city of al-Bireh just outside Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is based.

"I would like to congratulate the teacher Hanan al Hroub for winning this prestigious prize due to the importance she gives to the role of play in a child's education," Pope Francis said announcing the f the winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2016. .

"A child has the right to play," the Pope said. "Part of education is to teach children how to play, because you learn how to be social though games, and you learn the joy of life."

The winner was announced at an awards ceremony in Dubai, with a video message of congratulation sent by Britain's Prince William, the BBC reported March 13.


"I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage," al Hroub said after receiving the award.

"I feel amazing and I still can't believe that the Pope said my name," al-Hroub told The Associated Press.

"For an Arab, Palestinian teacher to talk to the world today and to reach the highest peak in teaching could be an example for teachers around the world."

She said she will spend the prize money on supporting her students.

The prize was created by the Varkey Foundation, the not-for-profit organization of the GEMS international education company.

The prize and high profile ceremony are intended to raise the status of the teaching profession.

The audience for the event included Hollywood stars such as Salma Hayek and Matthew McConaughey and political figures such as former UK prime minister Tony Blair and the vice president of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The top 10 finalists were invited on stage by a video message from physicist Stephen Hawking and were congratulated by video messages from US vice-president Joe Biden and former US president Bill Clinton.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and creator of the prize, said he hoped that Hanan al Hroub's story would "inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession.

(Image: Varkey Foundation)

"The finalists included:

• Maarit Rossi from Finland developed her own method for teaching math. Finland has some of the best math results in the world in international tests, but Rossi's classes are high achieving even against Finnish standards.

• Aqeela Asifi came to Pakistan as a refugee from Afghanistan and is teaching refugee children in a school that she created.

• Ayub Mohamud, a business studies teacher from Kenya, has reached the finals with a project to discourage violent extremism and radicalization.

• Robin Chaurasiya from Mumbai in India founded an organization to teach and support teenagers from the city's red-light district.

• Richard Johnson, a science teacher from Perth in Australia, set up a science laboratory for primary school children.

• Michael Soskil from Pennsylvania in the United States, a previous winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, has motivated his pupils by linking them with projects around the world.

• Kazuya Takahashi from Japan has developed innovative ways to teach science and to encourage global citizenship.

• Joe Fatheree from Illinois in the United States has pioneered teaching projects using 3D printing, drone technology and using online games such as Minecraft.

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