Despite or perhaps because of her petite stature, she would stand no nonsense and yet of all my teachers she stood out as the one who invested most significantly in my life. Miss Russell taught me English and history for most of my high school years and I am forever grateful that she saw something in me that she chose to nurture and nourish.
I can still picture her today as vividly as if I’d just left her room … pleated woollen skirts and twin sets in somber tones with a string of pearls at the neck and except in the hottest months, a light latte coloured jacket. I was a little afraid of her but she had a determination to enable each student to be the best they could be. She was a catalyst for change in so many young people’s lives.
We’ve all had them, those generous souls whose passion for teaching and enthusiasm for their subjects changed something in us, giving us a new understanding, leading us to a new confidence in ourselves or unlocking a latent talent that took us in fresh directions.
I once heard someone say, "Each student is a gift to a teacher. They get to unwrap the gift and discover the gold inside".
The winner, Peter Tabichi, a maths, science teacher from a school in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya's Rift Valley, where drought and famine are frequent. Ninety-five per cent of his students live in poverty and nearly a third are either orphans or from single-parent families.
Peter Tabichi is a Franciscan brother who gives 80% of his monthly income to support children who would otherwise not be able to attend school. With serious shortages of equipment and teachers Peter often has 60-70 pupils in his class. He use to teach at a private school with ample equipment and a more significant wage but chose to leave that behind to invest in a small school and a community with far greater need.
He is raising the aspirations of students. Some have been successful in national and international science competitions including the Royal Society of Chemistry in Britain. He is one man in a remote village of Kenya and yet he is proving the power of one to change lives and make a significant difference.
That’s often all it takes, one person to love, care and understand, to change a life.
Hugh Jackman hosted the Global Teacher Prize event. In his opening speech he remembered one of his schoolteachers, Lile Jones, who for two years encouraged him to not just play the part but to become the character. One night something change and he found himself in the character. Half way through the play, a deep, booming voice called out, “Yes, finally!”
One teacher invested in a boy who became the actor we know and love today
The more I've learned about Peter Tabichi, the more he has inspired me. He makes no apologies for basing his life on the prayer of St Francis of Assisi - Lord make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred let me sow love ... For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned ... so when asked if he would use some of the prize money to replace his motorbike with a car, he said, "No". He doesn't consider the money to be his but to be used to better equip the school and to alleviate poverty in the community.
He believes that the lives you help to change are the most valuable contribution you can make in life.
There on the glittering stage in Dubai, surrounded by the greatest luxury the world has to offer, a selfless man of faith shone a light on the most important thing in the world, the gift of love.
Enjoy a glimpse into the life of Peter Taichi