Teachers play a vital role in preparing youngsters for the “setbacks and challenges” in life, Prince Harry said, as a teacher from the Canadian Arctic was awarded a global prize worth a million dollars.
Maggie MacDonnell, who has been a teacher at the Ikusik School in a remote Inuit village for six years, told of the problem of student suicides in her community as she was handed the third annual Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.
The prize, which was awarded at a ceremony in Dubai, recognises an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
In a video message, Prince Harry, said: “In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, the very best teachers go beyond the pages of textbooks to teach young people about determination, aspiration, resilience and compassion. We will all face setbacks and challenges in our lives and our teachers play a vital role in preparing us for these ups and downs”.
The winner was announced by astronaut Thomas Pesquet on the International Space Station during a star-studded ceremony that also featured adventurer Bear Grylls and singer Andrea Bocelli.
In her acceptance speech, Ms MacDonnell said: “I think many of you might know that the community I live in right now is dealing with a suicide crisis. And one story I want to share, as a Canadian, it’s a memory that haunts me but I feel I need to share it so that the world knows about it.”
She added: “I have witnessed over 10 suicides in just two short years. And when I leave the church with the community and we take the body to the graveyard, the memory that continues to haunt me is when I see these Canadian teenagers, their very own classmates are the deceased, literally digging the grave and putting the body of their loved one into the tundra.”
Among the 10 finalists for this year’s award was Raymond Chambers, a computer science teacher at Brooke Weston Academy in Corby, Northamptonshire.
Speaking previously of his love of teaching, Mr Chambers, 30, said: “No day is the same. If I was a computer programmer, which is what I wanted to be, I would have been at a desk, having meetings, talking about a project.
“Being in the classroom every day is different. You’re not at a desk, you’re building relationships with young people and it’s rewarding to see what they achieve.”
In a congratulatory message to Ms MacDonnell, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “I’d like to say thank you to every teacher out there.
“Teachers owe responsibilities to many people – to students, to parents, to the community, the school board. But in the end, as all great teachers know – they are ultimately responsible to something far greater.
“They are responsible to the future – and for the world that will be shaped by the children they teach.”