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Surrey teacher Annie Ohana recounts Global Teacher Prize experience

F-bkmWoW4AAR3mi.jpgIt’s been an experience of a lifetime for Surrey teacher Annie Ohana, who recently shared the world stage with nine other educators for the Global Teacher Prize, one of education’s most prestigious awards.

Appearing in Paris at the 42nd UNESCO General Conference, Ohana was one of 10 finalists for what has been called the ‘Nobel Prize’ for educators, a $1-million USD award for teachers to advance their exceptional contributions to the profession. Thousands of educators are nominated for the prize each year.

This year, Sister Zeph from Pakistan was named the winner. But for Ohana, the honour of even being recognized on the international stage was unimaginable.

“I never dreamed I would make it to the top 10,” she said. “This was an amazing highlight of my career, especially because of all the beautiful messages from staff, fellow educators from around the world, family, and of course, current and past students and families.”

After landing in Paris, Ohana said she met the other nine finalists and immediately felt a connection.

“It felt like family the second I met them, everyone was everyone else's biggest fan,” she recalled. “We got to talking about curriculum, pedagogy, liberation through education the second we met.

“We even wondered, what if we all taught at the same school, the creative chaos and non-stop energy would be amazing!”

Ohana said she was also able to share some time with winner Sister Zeph prior to, and after, she was announced this year’s winner.

“We spent a day together and I was so inspired by her strength and journey,” said Ohana. “She was absolutely rushed off her feet and I could see she just wanted to sit and think about her school and students. We plan to keep in touch and also collaborate somehow.”

As for what’s next, Ohana is currently in London before heading to Namibia to represent the BBritish Columbia Teachers Federation in their partnership with the Namibia National Teachers’ Union.

“So we’ll be visiting schools, meeting teachers, helping them set up a Retired Teachers' Union and build up more solidarity based projects,” she explained. “I love doing this collaborative work on a global scale.”

Asked if there was any downtime in her future, Ohana said she’ll be going full steam ahead until winter break next month.

“Having been to Palestine, Germany, Poland, the U.K., France and then soon Nimibia, I’m thinking a staycation is in order.”

Coming away with final thoughts, Ohana said the experience further opened her eyes to the different experiences teachers face on a daily basis around the world.

“Teachers should not have to beg and plead for basics or rely on an almost impossible chance to win money,” she said. “Every teacher is deserving, and the smallest acts have the biggest impact.

“We truly need to stop letting settler colonial mindsets dictate our borders, policies, and cooperation. We only hurt each other when we do so.”

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