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Belfast drama teacher to Strictly's Redknapp and Russell Brand, Peter Ferris, in running for $1m global accolade

By Jemma Crew

A Belfast teacher who guided Strictly Come Dancing finalist Louise Redknapp and comedian Russell Brand to success is one of four Britons in the running for a million dollar (£790,000) education prize.

Peter Ferris, a 49-year-old drama teacher at Mercy College in Belfast, has been included in the top 50 shortlist for next year's Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.

Among the alumni he encouraged while teaching at the famous Italia Conti Academy of Performing Arts in London are singer Redknapp, who is currently flying high on the BBC One dance competition show, funnyman Brand and actor Daniel Mays, star of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Ferris has been in the profession for over 30 years, having taught many different students who went on to achieve success and fame including Martine McCutcheon, Claire Goose, Claire Sweeney and Lisa Snowdon.

In 2009 Peter - once mentored by Z Cars star Jimmy Ellis - set up the first screen acting classes in Northern Ireland, where they continue to run and lead the way in technique to this day.

Although he lives in England, the former Cabin Hill and Campbell College student personally teaches a class in Northern Ireland every month, and never fails to provide his students with a unique, educating and entertaining atmosphere, inspiring them to reach their full potential.

The award aims to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession and shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. The top 50 has been shortlisted from more than 20,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries. The final 10 candidates will be announced in February next year and the winner in March.

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