British inner-city teacher named world’s best, wins $1 million prize

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British school teacher Andria Zafirakou reacts after winning the Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, March 18, 2018. (AP)
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British school teacher Andria Zafirakou, left accepts the Global Teacher Prize trophy from Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at a ceremony in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, March 18, 2018. (AP)
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British teacher Andria Zafirakou (L) receives the "Global Teacher Prize" from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (C), Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai during an award ceremony in Dubai on March 18, 2018. (AFP)
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British teacher Andria Zafirakou (L) receives the "Global Teacher Prize" from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai during an award ceremony in Dubai on March 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2018

British inner-city teacher named world’s best, wins $1 million prize

DUBAI: Briton Andria Zafirakou, who works in a school in one of the UK’s poorest areas, on Sunday won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for 2018 at a star-studded ceremony in Dubai.
The arts and textiles teacher from the Alperton Community College of Brent, an inner-city school in London, was among 10 finalists from around the globe for the annual award. Thirty thousand candidates were in the running.
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and British Prime Minister Theresa May were among the first to congratulate her.
“Congratulations to Andria Zafirakou for having won the Global Teacher award,” tweeted Sheikh Mohammed after handing her the prize.
He said teaching “is the greatest job” ever, and described teachers as “stars.”
May, in a video message broadcast at the gala event, said: “Being a great teacher requires resilience, ingenuity, and a generous heart. These are the qualities that you share with your students everyday.
“So thank you for all you have done and continue to do.”
Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton raced to the venue to deliver the trophy while South African comedian Trevor Noah hosted the event which included a performance by Oscar-winning actress and Grammy award winning singer Jennifer Hudson.
Brent, where Zafirakou teaches, is considered an ethnically diverse and disadvantaged area and many of her students come from impoverished homes.
The area is also rife with gang violence and Zafirakou faced “a daunting task when she joined the school,” the organizers said in a statement.
“But throughout the school and on the streets she is driving change” working “closely with the police to identify potential issues and (gang) recruiters.”
She redesigned the school’s curriculum “to resonate with an ethnically diverse student body” and learnt the basics of some of the 35 languages spoken at the school to communicate with parents and students.
Zafirakou also “reworked the school’s timetable to allow girls-only sport, important in a conservative community. The result? A cup-winning girls’ cricket team,” the statement said.
Her hard work paid and placed Alperton Community College “in the top five percent in England and Wales for improving pupils’ achievement.”
The Dubai-based Varkey Foundation organized the event, the fourth time it has handed out the prize for best teacher.
The winner will walk away with $1 million which will be paid in equal instalments over 10 years on one condition — she continues teaching for at least five years.


Skeptic of world being round dies in California rocket crash

Updated 24 February 2020

Skeptic of world being round dies in California rocket crash

  • “Mad” Mike Hughes said he wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is round
  • His home-built rocket blasted off into the desert sky and plunged back to earth in California

BARSTOW, California: A California man who said he wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is round has died after his home-built rocket blasted off into the desert sky and plunged back to earth.
“Mad” Mike Hughes was killed on Saturday afternoon after his rocket crashed on private property near Barstow, California.
Waldo Stakes, a colleague who was at the rocket launch, said Hughes, 64, was killed.

"Mad" Mike Hughes. (Science Channel/via REUTERS/File photo)
 


The Science Channel said on Twitter it had been chronicling Hughes’ journey and that “thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time.”
“It was always his dream to do this launch,” the Twitter message said.
Hughes also was a limousine driver, who held the Guinness world record for “longest limousine ramp jump,” for jumping 103 feet (31 meters) in a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine, at a speedway in 2002.
A video on TMZ.com showed the rocket taking off, with what appears to be a parachute tearing off during the launch. The steam-powered rocket streaks upward, then takes around 10 seconds to fall straight back to earth. Shrieks can be heard as the rocket plows into the desert.

Freelance journalist Justin Chapman, who was at the scene, said the rocket appeared to rub against the launch apparatus, which might have caused the mishap with the parachute.
In March 2018, Hughes propelled himself about 1,875 feet (570 meters) into the air. He deployed one parachute and then a second one but still had a hard landing in the Mojave Desert in California, and injured his back.
“This thing wants to kill you 10 different ways,” Hughes said after that launch. “This thing will kill you in a heartbeat.”
He said in a video that his goal was to eventually fly to the edge of outer space to determine for himself whether the world is round.
“I don’t want to take anyone else’s word for it,” he said in the video, posted on the BBC News website. “I don’t know if the world is flat or round.”
In another video posted on his YouTube site, Hughes said he also wanted “to convince people they can do things that are extraordinary with their lives.”
“My story really is incredible,” Hughes once told The Associated Press. “It’s got a bunch of story lines — the garage-built thing. I’m an older guy. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, plus the Flat Earth. The problem is it brings out all the nuts also.”