Search form

Last updated: 1 min 19 sec ago

You are here


Canadian teacher wins $1m global prize in Dubai

Maggie MacDonnell, receives the Global Teacher Prize from Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, in Dubai, on Sunday. (AP)
DUBAI: A Canadian who teaches at a school in a fly-in only village in the Arctic won a $1-million Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai on Sunday.
Maggie MacDonnell, praised for “changing the lives of her students and transforming her community,” was among 10 finalists chosen from 20,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries.
She has taught for the past six years in the Inuit village of Salluit, in the Canadian Arctic, which has a high rate of suicide, according to her biography provided by the award organizers.
MacDonnell said she has witnessed over 10 suicides.
“As a teacher, when I come to school the morning after there is an empty desk in that classroom. There is stillness and silence,” she said, fighting back tears.
“Thank you for bringing global attention to them,” she added.
MacDonnell has created a life skills program specifically for girls, in a region where teenage pregnancies are common, with high levels of sexual abuse, according to her biography.
Many teachers leave their posts midway through the academic year due to stress and the harsh conditions endured by the indigenous community.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated MacDonnell in a video message. “We are all proud of you,” he said.
Speaking to The Associated Press after her win, MacDonnell said she plans to use the prize money to continue helping the community in Salluit by establishing an environmental stewardship program to reconnect youth with many of their cultural traditions.
She said she hopes the award brings attention to the indigenous communities of Canada and “ideally that they be treated with the dignity that they deserve.”
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum was on hand to present the prize to MacDonnell. Her name was announced by French astronaut Thomas Pesquet in a video message from the International Space Station.
The Nobel-style award was set up three years ago by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation. The prize is paid in instalments and requires the winner to remain a teacher for at least five years.
Last year, Palestinian teacher Hanan Al-Hroub won the prestigious prize for her innovative approach of using play to counter violent behavior among her students in the West Bank.