Hanan Al Hroub is an inspiration. Her life's been difficult enough that just a steady career would be victory enough. But Al Hroub has much more than that.
The Palestinian woman, who grew up in a refugee camp near the embattled West Bank city of Bethlehem, just received the 2016 Global Teacher Prize, aka the Nobel prize for teaching.
Al Hroub received the prestigious award for her work with Palestinian children who have seen and endured widespread violence in her hometown.
“I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage. I accept this as a win for all teachers in general and Palestinian teachers in particular,” she stated in her acceptance speech at the ceremony in Dubai. “Each day, the role of the teacher is reinforced and its importance confirmed as the world questions what future we want for our children.”
Al Hroub reportedly beat 8,000 applicants from across the globe to win a $1 million prize as well as the title for the world’s most exceptional teacher.
As successful and inspirational as she has been in her career, Al Hroub’s motivation to become a teacher was rather tragic. She entered the field of primary education after her own husband and children were shot at by the occupying Israeli forces.
“It transformed my children's behaviors, personalities and academics," she said in her profile video for the Varkey Foundation, the nonprofit that founded the Global Teacher Prize. "I felt that I was alone in getting my children through this. No teachers had helped us get my children back on track.”
Due to lack of a proper education system for Palestinians, Al Hroub adopted a unique strategy of playing and learning with her students and it turned out to be an effective method.
“Early on, Hanan realized that a high proportion of her students couldn’t read and had to memorize their lessons,” reads her profile on the prize’s official website. “She tackled the problem as a priority and is proud that by the end of the year 85% of her class could pick up any book and read it.”
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Palestinians gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah to watch al Hroub receive the award during a grand ceremony, which was attended by Hollywood stars such as Salma Hayek and Matthew McConaughey, as well as a number of other world politicians.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Prince William also offered their congratulations to the award’s 10 finalists.
Pope Francis announced her win in a video message:
Pope Francis Announces Winner of Global Teacher Prize 2016
VIDEO: The very special moment Pope Francis announced Hanan Al Hroub as the winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2016. We are so grateful to his Holiness Pope Francis for supporting us in shining a spotlight on the incredible impact teachers have around the world! #teachersmatterPosted by Global Teacher Prize on Monday, March 14, 2016
Last year, Nancie Atwell from Maine in the United States became the inaugural winner of the Global Teacher Prize.