Nancie Atwell with US President Bill Clinton, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sunny Varkey of the Varkey Foundation
American teacher Nancie Atwell recently received the Global Teacher Prize, an annual one million dollar award from the Varkey Foundation given at the annual Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai. The award recognizes a single teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, from employing innovative teaching methods to supporting their peers and encouraging others to join the profession.
Teachers are critical to the success of an education system. Despite their importance, their role is not fully appreciated in society. For example, according to the Varkey GEMS Foundation Global Teacher Status Index, there are significant contrasts between countries over the extent to which they would encourage younger generations to become teachers.
Business can help change this.
The Global Teacher Prize is just one example of how businesses can use their assets and voice to support teachers. By establishing the prize and convening thought leaders and public officials around a common platform, business leader Sunny Varkey used his voice and vast network to elevate the importance of teachers in the public eye.
The business community also actively participated in the selection of the winner by participating in the Global Teacher Prize Academy – made up of head-teachers, educational experts, commentators, journalists, public officials, tech entrepreneurs, company directors and scientists from around the world.
There are several other ways business can support teachers more broadly, the teaching profession:
– Provide a platform for teachers to exchange ideas: Companies have significant experience in training platforms and knowledge management. At the invitation of teachers and teaching organizations, companies can provide in-house expertise, technology and the necessary training to facilitate best practice sharing for teachers across schools, communities and countries.
– Invite teachers to the workplace: Companies cite finding talent as a major barrier for growth and are re-thinking talent management as a supply chain issue. Companies can manage talent from the classroom to the office, working with civil society and government to align skills with company needs. Companies can invite teachers to participate in job experiences – from manufacturing to IT – that connect their teaching with real world applications to better prepare students for the workplace.
– Elevate the status of teachers: Companies can take the lead of the Varkey Foundation or ExxonMobil and recognize the importance of teachers by establishing a prize or providing professional development opportunities. Businesses can contribute financial resources, offer space for trainings and even tailor existing leadership training to support the leadership potential and professional growth of teachers.
To strengthen education systems, business should consider the opportunity of investing in teachers. The business community – in partnership with civil society and government – can play a critical role in elevating the teaching profession and fostering teachers’ professional growth.