A science teacher from Teesside has made it on to the shortlist for a global teaching prize that could earn him up to $1 million. Dr Richard Spencer, from Middlesbrough College, is one of the ten names on the newly created Varkey Gems Foundation Global Teacher Prize, which is in its inaugural year. The award has been set up to recognise individuals making an outstanding contribution to the teaching profession.
The ten nominees will learn who has been selected as the winner at a ceremony at the Global Education and Skills Forum, scheduled to be held in Dubai in March. Dr Spencer was originally included in the longlist towards the end of last year, when the 50 names also incorporated that of another British teacher, Tom Bennett, who teaches at Jo Richardson Community School in the east of London. Spencer then made it through to the abridged list of finalists, as Bennett dropped out as they whittled the numbers down.
The highly educated teacher, who holds a PhD in molecular biology among his qualifications, originally trained as a secondary school biology teacher. When asked about his nomination, he said that he was "honoured" to have made the shortlist. He had looked through the profiles for each of the original 50 names on the longlist and was surprised at how they could have decided on the final ten names, such was the standard of the candidates that had been included.
Dr Spencer is not a stranger to picking up awards for his teaching, particularly in the sciences, and his ability has been ably demonstrated by training science teachers across the world, in addition to his participation on various conferences and at workshops.
He is not averse to utilising a variety of techniques in his teaching of people, to get the message over in a clear and understandable fashion, including the methods of experiments, models, role play and videos. Recognising that 'variety' is indeed the secret to keeping his lessons memorable and interesting to his audience, he has also been known to incorporate games, poems, songs and dance into his lessons if he believes that they could help.
He faces stern competition in the final though, with fellow academics from the USA, Kenya, India, Cambodia, Malaysia, Haiti and Afghanistan, all going head to head for the winner's prize. With a sizeable sum in the region of £630,000 up for grabs to the winner, the amount being paid out over ten years, it is well worth being successful. Whoever takes the top honour will be asked to take on the role of global ambassador for the Varkey Gems Foundation, which will include attendance at events and speaking engagements. Recognising the potential for such a large sum having an impact on the individual's future career and lifestyle options, there is a stipulation that the winner remains as a classroom teacher for a minimum of 5 years after they take the prize. #YoungstersThe Varkey Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that has been set up to build classrooms and learning centres, in addition to considering teaching capacity across the globe, with a desire to encourage excellence and innovation in future educators.