The Palestinian Ministry of Education has announced that Nesreen Qutainah, a science and maths teacher at Dora Primary School for Girls in the occupied West Bank city of Al-Khalil (Hebron), has been shortlisted for this year's World's Best Teacher Award and its $1m (£723,000) prize. The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2021 in partnership with UNESCO is now in its seventh year and was set up to recognise exceptional teachers.
Qutainah told the organisers that the coronavirus pandemic presented major challenges to her students' education. However, she did not let this become a barrier and created videos to teach online those who had access to a computer and social media. For those without internet access, she prepared booklets full of interactive activities and educational cartoons.
"I try to enlighten a mind, for you will then revive a person," she explained. She also says no to stereotypes and yes to creativity. These are her underlying principles for teaching and learning.
Learning through play is key to her approach, particularly as many of her students struggle in mathematics and dislike school. She asks children to compose stories based on what they have learned in science or sing songs about maths, for example.
"If we are to rebuild a better world in the wake of Covid-19 we must prioritise giving every child their birthright of quality education," she pointed out. "It is the next generation, with teachers as their guide, who will safeguard the future for us all."
Qutainah is an internationally certified trainer with Microsoft — which named her as an Innovative Teacher — and trains educators from other Arab countries on the use of technology. In 2019, she was named Best Teacher in Palestine and last year she received Palestine's Achievement and Excellence Award for Supporting Education.
The Palestinian Minister of Education, Marwan Awartani, congratulated Nesreen Qutainah on this achievement, despite the constraints Palestinian teachers face as a result of the Israeli occupation and the coronavirus pandemic.
The global teacher prize was created to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, as well as to highlight the stories of the "hero" teachers who have transformed young people's lives. The shortlist will be narrowed down in October with the overall winner announced at an awards ceremony in Paris in November.
Palestinian teacher Hanan Al-Hroub won the best teacher award in 2016.