Passionate and talented Greek Cypriot teacher Andrea Zafirakou from Alperton Community School in London has been awarded the ‘Nobel Prize of Teaching’ in Dubai overnight and received US $1 million for her outstanding contribution to the teaching profession.
She is an arts and textiles teacher who has learned the basics of 35 different languages to better connect with her students and has been named winner of the 2018 Global Teacher Prize.
Zafirakou says her calling in life is to make sure that every child reaches their full potential. And, while she strives to make this happen for every single student, her school community faces many daily challenges.
“We are in an area where there is poverty and deprivation. Our students will experience gangs, they can see domestic violence, it’s devastating,” she told media.
“There is a gang culture outside of our school gates. We have individuals recruiting students or young people to get into their gangs. You can’t let that come through the school gates. We have to make sure we are protecting our students at all costs,” she added.
Zafirakou often assists children to the school gates, helping them to board buses after school and making sure they make it home safely.
“I absolutely love what I do, I can’t imagine having any other job. They’re my kids and I am a mum to about 1400 students,” she says.
There are approximately 35 different languages spoken in the school, and 85 per cent of students speak English as an additional language. In order to form better relationships with them, Zafirakou learned the basics of each of these 35 languages.
‘It doesn’t matter if you can’t speak English, we are able to help them achieve and develop skills and confidence,’ she says.