Meet Vanesri Kasi and Noorjahan Sultan.
The two Malaysian teachers who are among the 50 finalists for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2016 worth USD1 million.
Described as the 'Nobel Prize' of teaching, the award recognises an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession and also aims to shine the spotlight on the role of teachers.
The Global Teacher Prize was launched last year by the London-based Varkey Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to improve the standards of education for underprivileged children.
"Our mission is that every child should have a good teacher," declares the foundation on its website. On the prize, the foundation has this to say: "We seek to celebrate the best teachers – those who inspire their students and community around them. The Foundation believes that vibrant education awakens and supports the full potential of young people. The status of teachers in our cultures is key to our global future."
Vanesri is a remedial education teacher in Muar, Johor
Vanesri, although just 25 years of age, has been recognised for her work in reintegrating children, particularly slow learners, into mainstream schools.
The SJK (T) Jalan Khalidi teacher has succeeded in sending 14 remedial students back to mainstream classes in just eight months, and several of them have gone on to outperform their classmates.
Not just that, Vanesri has won several prizes, including a Best Innovation Award at a national level as well as a Sports Education Award in Thailand for the way she has integrated sports into her teaching.
Noorjahan, on the other hand, is a preschool teacher in Kuantan
In 2009, Noorjahan developed and pioneered a revolutionary method called "Let's Rhyme" for learning English using the alphabet and thematic rhyming. The method also conveys moral values, love for one's country, and cultural understanding.
As a result, the SK Indera Mahkota Utama teacher's method has been applied in more than 1,000 preschools all over Malaysia.
Chosen as a national trainer for preschool teachers, Noorjahan, who is involved in improving the educational syllabus of preschools, has received numerous awards on state, national and international level. She was a finalist for the National Innovation Award by the Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation in 2014.
44-year-old Noorjahan, while speaking to The Star, said the nomination was like "a gift" and that it made her feel appreciated
"I hope I am inspiring young educators. Just like any other teacher in the world, we struggle to get the best from our kids," said Noorjahan, who has 22 years of experience. She added that she hopes to win the award and distribute her method to more people. "I'm now putting in the effort to digitise the module into an audiovisual application in line with the 21st-century style of learning."
Vanesri, who has plans to build a therapy room project to provide special children with the tools for moving forward and to lead productive lives, said that if she wins, she hopes to donate the prize money to autism centres or to remedial or special education classes
"I focus on slow learners. I make them feel confident and be able to talk bravely in front of others. My goal is to provide opportunities for slow learners to showcase their strengths," she told The Star Online.
She gets students to present their projects and uses teaching aid to help them understand their lessons. Her lessons are also peppered with jokes to create a relaxed atmosphere for students.
The winner will be announced in Dubai on 16 March 2016
We at SAYS wish both Vanesri and Noorjahan best of luck!