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British science teacher in line for $1m prize

13/02/2015 Kelly
A British science teacher has made the final of a prestigious competition to find the world's best educator.

Richard Spencer from Middlesbrough College will compete with nine other teachers in Dubai next month for the Global Teacher Prize from the Varkey Foundation, which comes with prize money worth $1 million (£654,000).

The international competition has been designed to encourage teachers to become more aspirational about the profession, and people from the US, India, Kenya and Afghanistan have also been shortlisted. 

Mr Spencer, who originally completed a PhD in molecular biology before switching to a teaching job, views working with young people as a "privilege" that gives him the chance to "fire their passion". 

"[I enjoy] the buzz of seeing those 'light bulb' moments when challenging topics start to make sense for students and you realise that hours of planning innovative learning experiences were worthwhile," he added.

The teacher take a varied approach to A-Level biology, as he looks to introduce experiments, fieldwork, videos, e-learning, models and role play in order to make lessons more engaging. 

Over time he has discovered that song and dance sessions are particularly useful for helping youngsters to learn and remember complicated biological processes, while he also calls on the occasional poem.

Mr Spencer has already been recognised for his teaching prowess, previously winning the Salters Prize for Teaching Chemistry, two national STAR awards and receiving an MBE for services to science communication. He has also been named as one of the UK's Top 100 Practising Scientists in 2014.

Former US president Bill Clinton is the foundation's honorary chairman and he recognises the importance of attracting high-quality candidates to the teaching world, while he also thinks holding teachers in high regard is "critically important to achieve excellence, both in teaching and learning".

The winner of the prize will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on March 16th 2015.

Posted by Harriet McGowanADNFCR-2164-ID-801775205-ADNFCR
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