Deep Narayan Nayak and Hari Krishna Patacharu were selected from thousands of entries from across the globe, and are now in the running to win the award – presented by the Varkey Foundation in partnership with UNESCO – and US$1 million.
The 2023 top 50 are made up of 7 teachers from South America, 8 from North America, 12 from Europe, 9 from Africa, 12 from Asia and 2 from Australia.
Deep Narayan Nayak, Tilka Majhi Adibasi Free Primary School, Jamuria, Asansol, West Bengal
When schools went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Deep Narayan Nayak turned mud walls outside properties into blackboards and converted roads into classrooms to ensure disadvantaged students unable to access digital education weren’t left behind. He has also been recognised for his work to educate parents, but particularly mothers and grandmothers, in an effort to break the cycle of illiteracy.
Other initiatives he’s developed include programs addressing malnutrition, child exploitation, early marriages, and environmental sustainability. Students and their families have access to counselling through his ‘Teacher at Doorstep’ program, which has reduced absenteeism and school dropouts.
‘… his work in providing education to underprivileged, remote communities that lack basic infrastructure, including electricity, schools, internet, roads, and housing, all seeing him hailed as the “Teacher of the Streets,” and “Raster Master”,’ his nomination reads.
Hari Krishna Patacharu, ZPHS Ilavaram, Bhattiprolu Mandal, Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh
English teacher Hari Krishna Patacharu teaches students in grade 6 to 10 and has been in the profession for more than 20 years.
‘While most teachers in the region use the dominant regional language Telugu when teaching English classes, this often results in difficulties for the students to express their thoughts in English freely,’ his nomination explains. ‘A chance sighting of a post on Facebook transformed his teaching philosophy, as it described a cross-cultural session between students of two American states.’
He decided to start similar sessions for his own students to increase their exposure to the language and overcome their fears. He’s now built a 400-strong network of educators from across the world, and, as a result of the online sessions, his students have not only improved their communication skills but also gained valuable insights and knowledge about the world beyond their own school and community.
In addition to this focus on oral language, Hari Krishna started a pen pal program connecting students in 12 countries, with letter exchanged by post. His other achievements include organising professional development sessions for his own region and state, involving 2,000 educators, and connecting with experts in robotics, coding and STEM to help student learners.
Champions for change
Making the top 50 announcement, the Varkey Foundation said: ‘Our Finalists come from all corners of the globe. From teaching in remote towns and villages to inner-city schools, they advocate for inclusivity and for child rights, integrate migrants into classrooms, and nurture their students’ abilities and confidence. They are all champions for change and are inspiring their students and communities around them.’
Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, added: ‘I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to all the finalists. UNESCO is a proud partner of the Global Teacher Prize, because teachers deserve our great recognition. They inspire and prepare children and youth to navigate a rapidly evolving world. Their efforts play a leading role in transforming education for the future.’
The annual prize was founded in 2014 by Sunny Varkey, Chairman of the Varkey Foundation, with the aim of raising the profile of the teaching profession. Its previous winners are: Keisha Thorpe from the United States, Ranjitsinh Disale from India, Peter Tabichi from Kenya, Andria Zafirakou from the United Kingdom, Maggie MacDonnell from Canada, Hanan Al Hroub from Palestine, and Nancy Atwell, from the United States.
The Global Teacher Prize 2023 Top 10 and overall winner will be announced later in the year.
Visit the Global Teacher Prize website to find out about all the Top 50 finalists for 2023, and more about the winners and finalists from previous years.