Palestinian Hanan Al Hroub, a teacher at Samiha Khalil High School in the West Bank city of Al Bireh, has won a $1 million Global Teaching Prize at a gala ceremony in Dubai.
In a video message to the audience, Pope Francis announced the winner. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, presented Ms Al Hroub with the prize on the last day of the Global Education and Skills Forum at Atlantis, The Palm.
The Global Teacher Prize was established by the non-profit Varkey Foundation in 2015 following a survey that found out the status of the teaching profession had been declining. The aim of the prize is to appreciate the extraordinary work of one exceptional teacher who achieved high results in the profession, as well as to shine a spotlight on the vital role teachers play in society.
As the National UAE noted, Hanan Al Hroub grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp, where she often was exposed to violence. She became a primary school teacher shortly after her children witnessed a shooting on their way to school.
The Palestinian had strong competitors from the United Kingdom, Japan, United States, Canada, and Kenya. According to The National, Ms Al Hroub won the award because she encouraged her students to work in a team. In addition to that, she also paid detailed attention to the individual needs of each child and always rewarded positive behavior. She explained her unique teaching approach in a book called "We Play and Learn," which inspired her colleagues to reconsider the way they teach.
Neil King of The Gulf Business writes that Ms Al Hroub received video praise from numerous prominent politicians, several world leaders and celebrities. In a video message, Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge said that her work was a great inspiration and an example of the teaching profession. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former U.S. President Bill Clinton also offered congratulations in recorded video messages.
As Sean Coughlan of The BBC notes, the Oscar-style event in Dubai was attended by Hollywood movie stars such as Salma Hayek and Matthew McConaughey, as well as politicians including former UK prime minister Tony Blair and the vice president of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Wearing a traditional Palestinian red dress with embroidery, Ms. Al Hroub accepted the award and commented:
"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."
In an interview with Sami Aboudi of Haaretz, she said she would use part of the money to advertise her educational methods and best practices worldwide. She would also support her colleagues in the schools in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank.
The founder of the Varkey Foundation, Sunny Varkey, said that the aim of the international education conference was to increase the public awareness of the importance of the teachers to our society:
"My hope is that children from around the world will watch Sunday's ceremony and think about what their own teachers do for them."