Over spring break, Karen Blake, a teacher at David Thompson Secondary and Karen Larsen, VSB Career Programs Coordinator returned from a self-funded Pro-D experience like none other. The "two Karens" were chosen to be delegates to the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.
One of the highlights of the forum is the announcement of the The Global Teacher Prize. The prize is an annual one million dollar award from the Varkey Foundation to be given to an innovative and caring teacher who has made an inspirational impact on their students and their community.
The VSB's own Mark Reid was shortlisted to the top 50 global teachers, and like Reid the nominees all have achieved amazing educational feats - from opening the first school for the blind in Cambodia to teaching Chemistry concepts in England through song and dance, to initiating a Malaysian boarding school for low income boys where a condition of enrollment is that they bring a sister or other female student with them, all the nominated teachers are at the top of their field.
Potential conference participants were required to write a 140-word summary of why they should be selected. "The Karens" applied as a team, as both VSB educators and UBC instructors.
Says Larsen, "We were shocked and delighted to be chosen as two of the six Canadian delegates to attend in Dubai."
The opening panel topic at the forum, 'How do we rethink education systems so that they champion the teacher in society?' was a lively discussion recalls Larsen. "Later in the day we bumped into panel member, Geoffrey Canada, President of Harlem Children's Zone. We told him we liked his surname and the way he 'stirred the pot' during the discussions."
The award is considered the Nobel Prize in education, and world leaders are frequently in attendance. A gala was held to honour the Global Teacher Prize nominees and to announce the winner. And out of the hundreds of nominees Nancie Atwell from the USA was the committee's choice.
"Bill Clinton - an unannounced attendee - was seated 15 rows in front of us, beside Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, The Ruler of Dubai, as well as the president of Rwanda," says Larsen. "We ended the evening by swapping a few teacher stories with Nancie Atwell, who, at 63, says 'I just love teaching'."
Both Karens say that they felt so proud to be educators at the forum. "It was an unexpected gift in our already eye-opening and action-packed vacation to the UAE," says Larsen. "It was the most inspiring professional development experience you could ever imagine."