A British teacher has been chosen from more than 30,000 applicants to be in the running for a million dollar prize from Bill Gates.
Andria Zafirakou teaches children from some of the poorest families in Britain at Alperton Community School in Brent, north-west London.
The children at her school speak 130 languages and many share one house with five other families.
Some of the children she teaches have been exposed to crime and gang violence, living in the London borough with the third highest murder rate in the UK.
In response, Andria decided it was vital that her pupils feel welcomed, included and listened to when they come to school.
She learnt basic greetings in 35 languages – including Hindi, Tamil, Portuguese and Gujarati – so she could greet the children and their parents individually.
With the help of her fellow teachers, she redesigned the curriculum to make it relevant to her pupils’ lives.
Andria has also made home visits, stays on the bus to see pupils home and welcomes them at the school gates.
‘By getting pupils to open up about their home lives, I discovered that many of my students come from crowded homes where multiple families share a single property,’ she said.
‘In fact it’s often so crowded and noisy I’ve had students tell me they have to do their homework in the bathroom, just to grab a few moments alone so they can concentrate.
‘I also found that some were being forced to play truant to cook meals in the allocated time slot they were permitted to use their shared home kitchen.
‘Others could not participate in extracurricular activities after school because they had to take on parental responsibilities like collecting their brothers and sisters from other schools.
‘Discovering all this prompted me to organise additional provision within the school day and often at weekends to help students have the opportunity to progress.’
Going above and beyond has seen Andria make it onto a shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, which recognises an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
She beat more than 30,000 entries from 173 countries to make it to the top 10, alongside teachers from Turkey, South Africa, Colombia, Philippines, United States, Brazil, Belgium, Australia and Norway.
‘When you read about why they are doing this – sharing good practice, raising the profile of teachers and how fundamental they are in society – that was why I wanted to apply,’ Andria told the Press Association.
‘If you have somebody who can connect with you and appreciate your background, then that’s special.’
If she wins the competition, she will be given a $1,000,000 (£719,000) prize fund from Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates.
While announcing her nomination, he said: ‘When you think about what drives progress and improvement in the world, education is like a master switch – one that opens up all sorts of opportunities for individuals and societies.
‘Research has shown that having a great teacher can be the most important factor that determines whether students get a great education.’
The award will be presented at a ceremony in Dubai on Sunday March 18.