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Teacher to find out if she has won million-dollar prize

Arts and textiles teacher Andria Zafirakou works at Alperton Community School in Brent, north-west London.

A UK teacher at an inner-city school is to find out if she has won a million-dollar (£717,000) prize.

Andria Zafirakou, who works at Alperton Community School in Brent, north-west London, is one of 10 finalists shortlisted for the fourth annual Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.

The winner of the award, which recognises an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, will be revealed at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday.

Alperton Community School is in one of the poorest areas of the country and pupils come from a variety of backgrounds.

Ms Zafirakou, an arts and textiles teacher, has learnt how to say basic greetings in many of the 35 languages spoken at the school, including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and Portuguese, to help parents feel welcome and included.

She redesigned the curriculum with fellow teachers to make it relevant to pupils, helped set up girls-only sports clubs for those from conservative communities and is also known for taking the time to understand students’ lives by visiting their homes and even joining them on the bus.

I think it’s a beautiful challenge, because I think diversity is what makes our school so exciting and just buzzing Andria Zafirakou

Ms Zafirakou said she had been “humbled” by the support she has received since she was announced as a finalist in February, but had not allowed herself to consider the possibility of winning the top prize.

“I don’t even want to get my head in that zone yet, because it’s just so extreme,” she told the Press Association.

“At the moment, I’m just trying to keep myself grounded – and enjoy the ride.”

Ms Zafirakou said her school community was a “huge family”, and has previously described teaching a classroom full of students from different backgrounds as “nothing but a good thing”.

“I think it’s a beautiful challenge,” she said, “because I think diversity is what makes our school so exciting and just buzzing.”

The other finalists, drawn from 30,000 entries from 173 countries, are from Turkey, South Africa, Colombia, Philippines, United States, Brazil, Belgium, Australia and Norway.

The winner will receive one million US dollars and be asked to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation.

They will be required to remain working as a classroom teacher for at least five years and will be paid the prize money in equal instalments.

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