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NSW teachers shortlisted for $1 million Global Teacher Prize

Two NSW teachers are in the running for an international award.

Peter Gurrier-Jones and a student hold hands and skip through a school playground

Peter Gurrier-Jones at The Hills School.
Credit: Quentin Jones

A young teacher known for her mentoring and collaboration and a principal working with students with highly complex needs have been named as top 50 finalists in the prestigious $1 million Global Teacher Prize.

Peter Gurrier-Jones, principal of The Hills School, and Yasodai Selvakumaran, a teacher at Rooty Hill High School, are the only Australian teachers shortlisted for the prize.

Last year maths teacher and YouTube sensation Eddie Woo made it to the prize’s top 10, which will be announced for 2019 next year in February.

The Global Teacher Prize, established by the Varkey Foundation in 2014, recognises and celebrates the impact that exceptional teachers have around the world – not only on their students, but on their communities.

Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott said the public education community was thrilled with the global recognition of “two of our finest teachers and leaders”.

“Peter and Yasodai are passionate educators, committed to the improvement of every young person in their care,” he said.

“They are also great leaders in our system whose impact extends well beyond their own school, influencing so many others with their highly innovative and strategic approaches to teaching and learning.”

Both Peter and Yasodai were 2018 recipients of the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards run in partnership with education charity Schools Plus.

Peter Gurrier-Jones said his nomination was a sensational acknowledgement “of the work and love of all the teachers, support staff, families and community who help kids at The Hills School learn and succeed”.

The school educates students with developmental disabilities and complex learning needs. Around 80 per cent of the students are non-verbal but Peter’s team has developed the ‘Communication Passport’ to provide a clear picture of individual students’ skills and abilities and map progress against curriculum requirements.

Yasodai Selvakumaran, known to her students as Ms Selva, teaches history, society and culture and geography and has been recognised as an under 35 ‘rising star’ in Australian education.

"This is a career milestone beyond anything I'd imagined when starting out in education,” she said.

"I am so thankful to the communities I'm a part of as teaching is a collaborative profession. That's actually what I love about it – working towards a common vision to seek success for all students is an amazing responsibility and privilege. No achievement reflects just one teacher but many people."

Deputy Secretary, School Operations and Performance, Murat Dizdar, said Peter and Yasodai were “heroes to their students”.

“They are both passionate, inspirational and compassionate educators who are positively shaping young lives in their schools and contributing to innovation across the system in NSW public education.”

The 2019 Global Teacher Prize will be awarded in Dubai on Sunday 24 March 2019 at the Global Education and SkiIIs Forum.

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