A physically challenged Indian teacher from a little-known institution in Uttarakhand and an Indian-American middle school teacher who has set up virtual classrooms using social media are part of a list of 50 contenders from around the world for a USD1 million global award.
Pradeep Negi, an economics, social science and computer science teacher at Government Inter College BHEL Ranipur in Haridwar, and Akash Patel, who teaches Spanish at Thomas J Rusk Middle School in Dallas, Texas, have been shortlisted for the annual Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018 from over 30,000 nominations and applications from 173 countries around the world.
"It is unbelievable. I am proud that I have been chosen as one of the top 50 teachers. It has motivated teachers in our community," said Negi.
"I am handicapped but it hasn't stopped me from succeeding and I am glad that I can inspire other disabled people in India. I have developed a lot of innovative work in ICT for my poor children and I am glad it has been recognised," said Negi, who was physically disabled at the age of two due to polio.
Negi was chosen for his fighting spirit, having suffered from bullying at school because of his disability and overcoming his adversities to use new technology tools to make economics and social subjects compelling to students.
"Congratulations to Pradeep Negi for reaching the final 50. I hope his story inspires those looking to enter the teaching profession and shines a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world every day," said Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize.
"We intend to keep this momentum going as our journey continues to return teachers to their rightful position as one of the most respected professions in society," he said.
Negi has helped train more than 1,200 teachers in his state.
Akash Patel started his teaching career in a small rural community in Oklahoma. He speaks five languages and has travelled to over 30 countries, using his experiences to make the curriculum more interesting for his students.
In his first year of teaching, he was recognised by the US State Department of Education and the Multicultural Education Institute as the January 2015 Educator of the Month and the 2015 Multicultural Teacher of the Year for promoting global citizenship in his classroom.
Patel has connected all of his classrooms with people and professionals worldwide using virtual platforms such as Adobe Connect, Skype and Google Hangout. Eventually, he mobilised over 1,000 volunteers from over 150 countries to join his Global Connect database at the World Experiences Foundation, a charitable organisation he founded.
The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher every year who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. The top 50 shortlisted teachers are narrowed down to 10 finalists by a committee and the results are announced in February 2018.
The winner will then be chosen from the final 10 finalists by the Global Teacher Prize Academy.
All 10 finalists will be invited to Dubai for the Award ceremony at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) on March 18, 2018, where the winner will be announced live on stage.