A teacher who learned to greet her pupils in the 35 languages spoken at her inner-city school has been crowned best in the world.
Andria Zafirakou was selected from thousands for her work with migrant children at Alperton Community School in Brent, north London.
As the winner of the fourth annual Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize held in Dubai, Zafirakou was awarded €815,160 at a ceremony attended by former US vice president Al Gore and Tony Blair. She's the first British teacher to win the prize, beating teachers nominated from more than 170 countries.
In a congratulatory message British Prime Minister, Theresa May, said the award was a "fitting tribute" for everything Zafirakou had done.
“Being a great teacher requires resilience, ingenuity and a generous heart. These are the qualities that you share with your students every day. So, thank you for all you have done and continue to do.”
Zafirakou teaches in one of the poorest parts of the UK, where one-third of pupils live in poverty. Many of her students come from crowded homes, shared with multiple families, while some are exposed to gang violence with the borough having the second highest murder rate in the UK.
As a member of the school’s senior leadership team, she transformed their approach to reach out to isolated young people so that they can engage in school life and perform to the best of their abilities.
“I care about my students, all of them," she explained to Euronews. "My job is not finished the moment I leave my classroom. I am interested in their lives, I make sure that whatever the issues are, I am there to help them."
Zafirakou will receive the cash prize and become a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation. She's required to remain a working teacher for at least five more years.
Last year, Canadian teacher Maggie MacDonnell received the award for her work with indigenous children in the village of Salluit in north Quebec.