Maggie MacDonnell, who teaches at the Ikusik School in Salluit, a remote innuit village in the Canadian Arctic, is the winner of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2017. Now in its third year, the US $1 million award is the largest prize of its kind, and was set up to recognize one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.
After completing her Masters degree, Maggie MacDonnell sought out opportunities to teach in indigenous communities in Canada, and for the last six years has been a teacher in the Canadian Arctic. There are tremendous gender issues in the Inuit region of Nunavik where teenage pregnancies are common and gender roles often burden young girls with large domestic duties. Also, in areas of high deprivation, isolation and limited resources, some teenagers turn to drinking, smoking, drugs and self-harm as forms of escape and release. There is also a high rate of suicide. Maggie’s approach has been about turning students from “problems” to “solutions.” She has created a life skills program specifically for girls which has seen a 500 per cent improvement in girls’ registration. Maggie has also dramatically improved school attendance by getting her students involved in running a community kitchen, attending suicide prevention training and hiking through national parks to understand environmental stewardship. Maggie also established a fitness centre that has become a hub for youth and adults in the local community. It is relieving stress, helping young people grow stronger physically and mentally and bringing the whole community together in a profound and lasting way. Maggie has also been a temporary foster parent in the community, including to some of her own students.
Further information about the Global Teacher Prize is available here: http://www.globalteacherprize.org.
To join the conversation online follow #TeachersMatter on: https://twitter.com/TeacherPrize and https://www.facebook.com/teacherprize