A school teacher from Surrey has been chosen out of thousands of applicants as one of 50 shortlisted world-wide for an award that will go to an educator who has a positive impact on their community and students.
Annie Ohana, a social justice teacher at L.A. Matheson Secondary, is the only Canadian to be named as a finalist for the GlobalTeacherPrize, with the winner receiving US$1 million.
Founded in 2011, the award is intended to highlight teachers and the importance of their work because “an inadequate education is a major factor behind the social, political, economic and health issues faced by the world today,” explains the Global Teacher Prize website.
“These kinds of accolades matter because this is an international adjudication panel and they’re looking at everything I do with a fine-tooth comb,” Ohana said in a Surrey Schools release.
“As teachers, we pour our heart and soul into this profession, so it helps put all of that work into perspective.”
With a passion for equity, Ohana has devoted her career to fighting for justice for all marginalized groups, through education of youth from an anti-racism perspective.
As a young “white-passing Sephardic Arabic Jew,” Ohana said she experienced marginalization in the education system early. This influenced what type of educator she wanted to become – the opposite of what she had grown up with.
She seems to be doing just that.
“Having spent her entire career teaching in inner city environments and within marginalized Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color (BIPOC) groups, she believes education for teachers like her is not just a part of life, it is a mechanism of elevation and change,” reads Ohana’s bio on the Global Teacher Prize site.
L.A. Matheson Secondary is an established social justice hub, receiving provincial grants for the Mustang Justice program founded by Ohana. Members of the group — students at the school — work to progress social justice.
One of Ohana’s specialties is campaigning for Palestinian rights. She has even developed curriculum on Israel and Palestine, that is being used internationally in classrooms.
The teacher’s work has directly resulted in “an increase in students taking multiple social sciences education courses, an increase in graduation rates for indigenous students… along with students having a voice when it comes to policy and curriculum at local and provincial level,” reads Ohana’s biography.
“Her life as a teacher has always been about bringing the real world into the classroom and the lived experience of her BIPOC students into spaces often denied, via a path of anti-oppression and liberation.”
If chosen for the top 10, Ohana will get the chance to attend a ceremony in Paris, France next month when the winner will be announced. If she wins, the teacher says she will use the grand prize to possibly start a scholarship fund through Mustang Justice, as well as fulfill other goals.
“Some of the other teachers are veterans that have been teaching for decades, so there’s definitely a lot of great educators in that group,” Ohana said.
“But at the end of the day, I’ll use whatever platform I can, and the work continues no matter what.”