Two Washington teachers — Noah Zeichner and Jeff Charbonneau — are among 50 finalists from across the world for a $1 million award, designed to be the Nobel Prize of education.
The Varkey GEMS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of an international private school chain based in Dubai, hopes its Global Teacher Prize will elevate the teaching profession, although some question whether giving $1 million to one teacher is the way to do that. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is the foundation’s honorary chairman.
Zeichner, who teaches at Seattle’s Chief Sealth High, recently was named World Educator of the Year by the Seattle branch of the World Affairs Council. He was featured on the Education Lab blog in March. Charbonneau, featured on the blog in May, was named the United States’ top teacher in 2013. He returned to Zillah High in Eastern Washington this fall, where he also works as a regional coordinator for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
In a news release, the Varkey GEMS Foundation said it decided to offer the prize after it commissioned a study that found teachers had low status in many nations across the globe. Even in Europe, the foundation said, it found that, in many countries, “less than a quarter of people thought that pupils respected teachers, and only a quarter of parents would encourage their child to become a teacher.”
The 50 finalists for the big prize were chosen from 1,300 teachers in 127 countries. Sixteen of the 50 are from the United States. The list will be winnowed to 10 in February, and the winner will be named in March in Dubai.
The winner will get the $1 million over 10 years, and must continue to work as a teacher for at least five years.
The criteria include:
- Innovative and effective instructional practices
- Accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide role models for the teaching profession
- Contributions to public debates on raising the bar of the teaching profession
- Sharing inspirational education practices with other teachers
- Preparing children to be global citizens
- Improving access to a quality education for children of all backgrounds
- Third party recognition of a teacher’s achievements in the classroom and beyond
- Encouraging others to join the teaching profession