A woman from north London has become the first British winner of a competition worth $1m to find the world’s best teacher. Andria Zafirakou, who teaches art and textiles, became the fourth winner of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize in Dubai on Sunday, beating nominees from more than 170 countries.
She accepted the award at a lavish ceremony hosted by South African comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, and attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, former US vice president Al Gore and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton.
In a congratulatory video message broadcast during the ceremony, UK prime minister Theresa May said the award was a powerful celebration of the work of teachers.
“Being a great teacher requires resilience, ingenuity and a generous heart,” said Ms May. “These are the qualities that you share with your students every day; so thank you for all you have done and continue to do.”
Zafirakou, who was one of 10 finalists for the award, used her acceptance speech to call for more support for the “power of the arts”, saying schools can help to transform children’s lives – particularly in poorer communities.
“I have seen how the arts help students to communicate. The arts help to give so much confidence and really create incredible young people,” she told the audience.