Ghanaian teacher Evans Odei has been named a top 10 finalist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2021, in partnership with UNESCO. Now in its seventh year, the US$1 million award is the largest prize of its kind.
Mathematics teacher Evans Odei from Achimota Senior High, Greater Accra, Ghana, was selected from over 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries around the world.
The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.
By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of millions of teachers all over the world.
Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, said:
“UNESCO is proud to host this year’s Global Teacher Prize ceremony at our headquarters in Paris. Inspirational teachers and extraordinary students alike deserve recognition for their commitment to education amid the learning crisis we see today. Now, more than ever, we must support them if we are to rebuild a better world in the wake of COVID.”
Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said:“Congratulations to Evans for reaching the final 10. His story clearly highlights the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to global pandemics. It is only by prioritising education that we can safeguard all our tomorrows. Education is the key to facing the future with confidence.”
Evans Odei has been teaching for 20 years with the Ghana Education Service, after falling in love with the profession while at a teacher training college. He spent 12 years of his teaching career at Swedru School of Business Senior High, Agona Swedru, Central Ghana, where he faced one of his greatest challenges.
Students skipped class, particularly Maths, preventing their admission to tertiary institutions. At the same time, local poverty, teenage pregnancy and the temptation of being lured into crime were additional problems.
Evans set up a ‘Maths Clinic’ for free to help students with a phobia of the subject and counselled students who had clashed with school rules and regulations, helping them build their confidence and self-esteem while reducing conflict in the school community.
His weekend ‘Maths Clinic’ targeted the average and below-average achieving students most in need of help.
Such initiatives, diagnosing student difficulties and finding lasting solutions, combined with creative uses of technology such as video lessons to stimulate interest in the subject, resulted in Evans’ students eventually learning mathematics with ease, excitement and joy.
This change in student perception and participation reduced truancy, improved test scores, and his high school became one of 16 in Ghana taking part in an international STEM challenge with overseas schools.
Following awards and acclaim at home, in 2015 Evans was one of 64 teachers from 13 countries at the International Leaders in Educational Programs (ILEP) at Clemson University, South Carolina, USA.
Through this ILEP program and other professional development courses, he developed skills to organize seminars and training workshops for teachers countrywide. He has now trained 2,800 teachers in Ghana’s Basic and Senior High Schools.
At Achimota Senior High, where Evans now teaches, during the pandemic, he adapted his methods to online seminars and lessons through ‘Maths Clinic’ classes with self-filmed video lectures, software animated graphs and diagrams to engage and entertain.
Uploading his lessons to his YouTube channel means ‘Maths Clinic’ has now gone global. Evans believes interventions of this kind, as well as boosting students’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth, has helped them become critical thinkers, problem solvers, and responsible adults able to make meaningful choices in life.
The other top 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2021 are Breanna Heels from Canada, Bryant Acar from the Philippines, David Swanston from the UK, Diana Lorena Rubio from Mexico, Ana Maria Stelman from Argentina, Juline Rault from France, Keishia Thorpe from the US, Rebecca West from Australia and Soraya Motaharnia from Iran.
Applications and nominations for this year’s Global Teacher Prize opened on Tuesday 2 February 2021 and closed on Sunday 16 May 2021.
Teachers who applied for the Global Teacher Prize are being assessed on teaching practices, how they innovate to address local challenges, achieve demonstrable learning outcomes, impact the community beyond the classroom, help children become global citizens, improve the teaching profession and gain recognition from external bodies. The US$1m award was won last year by Indian village teacher Ranjitsinh Disale.
The winner will be chosen from the top 10 finalists by the Global Teacher Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals.
If teachers were nominated, the person nominating them was asked to write a brief description online explaining why. The teacher being nominated was then sent an email letting them know they had been nominated and inviting them to apply for the prize.
Applicants were able to apply in English, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. To join the conversation online follow @TeacherPrize
This year, the Varkey Foundation also launched the Chegg.org Global Student Prize, a sister award to the Global Teacher Prize, to create a powerful new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere who are reshaping our world for the better. The winning student will receive $100,000.