Australian teacher named among world's top 50

Mathematics teacher Ashley Stewart from Newton Moore Senior High School in Bunbury, Western Australia, has been named alongside educators from around the world in the top 50 finalists for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2020.

The US $1 million prize, which is presented in partnership with UNESCO, is awarded to an exceptional teacher who is making an outstanding contribution to the profession. The top 50 shortlist for this year's prize represents 37 countries and was whittled down from 12 000 nominations received from over 140 countries.

Stewart joins other Australian teachers who have been named amongst the top 50 educators in the world in past years, such as Eddie Woo, Sarah Mathews and Charlie Klein in 2018 and Yasodai Selvakumaran and Peter Gurrier-Jones in 2019.

The Global Teacher Prize is now in its sixth year, with past winners including Nancie Atwell, an educator from the US that founded her own school; secondary school educator Maggie MacDonnell from Canada; Art and Textiles teacher Andria Zafirakou from the UK; and Science and Mathematics teacher Peter Tabichi from Kenya.

The prize aims to shine a spotlight on the extraordinary work of teachers all over the world. The top 10 finalists will be announced in June this year, and the winner will be named at a ceremony in London on 12 October, 2020.

Striving for success in STEM

As a Mathematics teacher at Newton Moore Senior High School, Stewart is closely involved with STEM and has the aim of closing the gender gap in enrolment and achievement with students. For example, the school has an Indigenous student population of 20 per cent, and Stewart is engaging these students through her implementation of STEM programs for Indigenous girls.

The STEM programs for Indigenous girls are not where her work ends – she has also developed and implemented an inventors club and spatial training program. She has also mentored teams through the annual International Mathematical Modelling Challenge – a challenging task which has students work collaboratively on a complex modelling task which connects their in-class learning with a real-world situation.

It's clear Stewart's dedication to student engagement in STEM is having an effect, with enrolments in higher-level mathematics classes at the school doubling this year. Her work also extends to parents, who she organises sessions with in order to inform them on how to best help their children with maths.

Making connections with the wider community is also a priority for Stewart within her work to increase student success. For example, she runs workshops with feeder primary schools to assist them with integrating particular topics into their classroom learning, as well as collaborating with the engineering department at a nearby university and even facilitating an international partnership with Singapore Chinese Girls' School.

‘Congratulations to Ashley Stewart for reaching the final 50,' Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize says.

‘I hope her story inspires those looking to enter the teaching profession and highlights the incredible work teachers do all over the world every day.'

To find out more about the educators named alongside Ashley Newton in the top 50 shortlist, visit the Global Teacher Prize website.