Each year outstanding educators from around the world are nominated for the Global Teacher Prize. Awarded by the Varkey Foundation, an international education nonprofit, the prize was created as a means to elevate the status of teachers and is supported by a network of government officials, celebrities, and entrepreneurs from around the world. This year, the $1 million prize went to Hanan al-Hroub from Palestine. On 13 March, Pope Francis announced Hroub as the award’s winner via video message at a ceremony in Dubai. Members of the audience waved Palestinian flags as Hroub accepted the award, and spectators gathered in downtown Ramallah to watch the ceremony live.
Hroub, who grew up in Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, works at Samiha Khalil Secondary School in al-Bireh where she develops techniques to help her students cope with trauma through play. Hroub was inspired to become a teacher after helping her own children recover from witnessing their father being shot and injured by Israeli soldiers on their way home from school.
“Say no to violence” is the motto of the classroom where Hroub works daily with children affected by the violence of the Israeli occupation. In an interview with the Guardian, she explains her approach: “I cannot influence the wider environment but I can influence the child.” In a book called We Play, We Learn,
Hroub outlines her techniques, which focus on building trusting relationships between children. Striving to provide a safe environment for learning, she believes “the violence that some Palestinian children practice is a reaction to the violence around them.” Her methods have led to a significant decrease in violence at her school, and she shares her approach with other teachers at seminars. She plans to use her award to expand her teacher trainings and to support aspiring teachers in their studies.
Major news outlets around the globe reported on Hroub’s story, and supporters from Palestine and beyond celebrated the World’s Best Teacher on social media. She was welcomed back home with parades and festivities.
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