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Meet the 2024 Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards regional winners

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All around the world teachers do fantastic work. They don’t just teach a curriculum – they instil values, encourage, support, befriend and truly impact the lives of their students and colleagues around them.

Nine teachers from around the world have been announced as the regional winners of the Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards 2024 – a global competition that celebrates the achievements of teachers.

Now in its sixth year, the competition highlights the important role that teachers play in shaping the lives of their learners and preparing them for the world. It gives students, parents and peers the chance to nominate a current primary or secondary teacher for outstanding commitment to their students’ education.  

This year, Cambridge received 14,840 nominations from over 140 different countries – a record number of nominations from people wanting to thank a teacher.

You can now vote for your favourite teacher out of the nine regional winners, to become the overall winner of the Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards 2024. Read their stories below and vote for your favourite.

The deadline to vote is 6 May 2024 and the global winner will be announced on 29 May 2024.  

Meet our regional winners (click to jump to their story):

Europe: Aynur Bayazit, Menekşe Ahmet Yalçınkaya Anaokulu School, Kırşehir Turkey

What does it mean to you to be a regional winner?

I was deemed worthy of many international awards throughout my teaching career. Being nominated for the Cambridge Dedicated Teachers Awards by my colleagues made this award special and honorable to me. It was a pleasure that my work was visible, my colleagues valued it and they deemed me worthy of this award. I was very surprised to receive an email saying I was shortlisted because I wasn’t expecting it.

I was very excited to learn that I was ranked first in Europe and to be selected as a special teacher by Cambridge. My goal is to be a role model for my colleagues, to guide them in their educational journey, and I believe that with this award, I will make my voice heard by more colleagues. My basic principle throughout my professional life has been “To be inspired and to  inspire”. This award inspired and motivated me.

Why did you become a teacher?

My father is an excellent teacher who is devoted to his profession. I spent my childhood observing his admiration for his profession, he inspired me and supported me to become a teacher. I have been a teacher for 23 years; seeing the changes in my students and being helpful to them makes me happy and I am glad I became a teacher.

The work I did to ensure that my students with special needs benefit from equal opportunities in education inspired both their families and my colleagues who work with students with special needs. The books I wrote for students and schools who could not access books due to limited resources reached many schools and teachers. These studies are a source of pride for me and when I think about it, I think I could not do any other profession because teaching feeds my soul.

Do you have a special teacher who inspired you?

I always had good teachers throughout my student life, but my primary school teacher was very special to me. I was a shy student with social phobia, who was quiet and unable to express emotions. She gave me opportunities to express myself and overcome my social phobia. Maybe if it wasn’t for my teacher, I would still be struggling with these problems today and maybe I wouldn’t be able to receive any of these international awards. I am grateful to my primary school teacher and I dedicate this award to her and my beloved father.

Do you have a memorable teaching moment?

My school is in a disadvantaged area, and student families have very limited socio-economic and cultural opportunities. When I started the project called Little Ahiler Learning Their Values, we wrote 10 story books together with student families and teachers. One of my students’ mothers had a dream to become a writer (I learned about this dream when we came together for the project) but she did not have the means to realize it. Our project gave her the opportunity to realize this dream. After the project, with my support, she wrote a story book dedicated to me and continues to write. This inspired me.

Tell us about a current project or school initiative you’re excited about

I must admit that I owe this award to my projects called “My Special Friend, This Workshop is for You” and “Little Ahiler Learning Their Values” and “Think Creatively, Produce Your Dreams”. We produced educational materials together with the students’ families in the workshop I established to support the cognitive, affective, social, language and self-care development of my autistic students.

I designed course activities and developed a methodology suitable for these materials. These materials contributed significantly to the development of my students and made the lives of both my students and their families easier.

With the “Little Ahiler Learning Their Values” project, I wrote story books with students’ families and teachers about the feelings of love, respect, responsibility, cooperation and sharing. These books were voiced by famous voice actors in Türkiye for visually impaired students.

I sent the books and audios free of charge to 136 schools in 81 provinces, as well as schools and libraries in Romania, Georgia and Belgium. I reached 5250 children in total. I won grant support with the “Think Creatively, Create Your Dreams” project prepared on behalf of my school, and I established Robotics-Coding and Mind Games Workshops both at my school and in 3 schools. I managed to bring the Microsoft Hololens system to the school for the first time in Türkiye.

Middle East & North Africa (MENA): Gina Justus, Our Own English High School Sharjah-Girls, Sharjah United Arab Emirates

Tell us about yourself

With 17 years at Our Own Sharjah Girls’ School, teaching English has been my passionate pursuit. I’ve explored innovative teaching methods, led the Middle School English team, organized workshops, and coordinated school publications. I have also set my time aside for the underprivileged children who have been deprived of education back in India by sponsoring them through an NGO, the Reach World Wide Organisation.

What does being a regional winner in the Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards mean to you?

It means a lot to me.  Really feel privileged to be honoured with this award.

Why did you become a teacher?

I love to be with the children and teaching is just my career but my passion. I aim to inspire responsible citizenship and nurture a positive classroom environment, especially during students’ transitional phases. As an educator, I continually learn with my students, fostering communication skills and confidence. Despite challenges, I find innovative ways to engage students and provide mentorship, embodying patience and empathy. My journey as an educator reflects a commitment to shaping future leaders and making a lasting impact on society.

Do you have a memorable teaching moment?

Not just one. But the most memorable is when I received an email from one of my parents mentioning that his ward is blessed having me as her teacher. The email also appreciated my efforts for being an awesome teacher and creating an environment of enthusiasm for learning. What really touched me was that the parent mentioned that I have been a source of inspiration for his child.

Tell us about a current project you’re excited about

I’m planning to organise groups of theatrical artists renowned for their exceptional talent. These teams will collaborate closely to create performances that showcase their skills in a captivating and memorable manner. The goal is to present top-tier theatrical experiences that leave audiences in awe of the talent and creativity on display.

North America: Marisa Medvetz Santos, Seminole Ridge Community High School, Florida – United States of America

What does being a regional winner mean to you?

Receiving this award is truly an incredible honor. The challenges we face as educators are endless, and I’m deeply touched that Cambridge is recognizing the sacrifices teachers make every day. It’s essential for educators to adapt and come up with new ways to engage students, ensuring we spark a lifelong passion for learning and empower students to take charge of their education. This award truly warms my heart, as it celebrates not just my efforts, but the collective resilience and unwavering commitment of all teachers to their students.

Why did you become a teacher?

I became a teacher because I was fortunate to have had some truly amazing educators during my time in the Palm Beach County public schools. Individuals such as Jana Springfield, Dr. Karla Yurick, Coach Patelsy, Coach Hodges, Mrs. Meeks, Robert Dow, Robert Keenan, Bobby Brubaker, Holly Grossman, Mierka Drucker, John Burow, and Jonathan Kaplan, inspired me to pursue a career in education.

Did you have a dedicated teacher who inspired you?

It’s impossible to name just one. When I was eight years old, Dr. Karla Yurick told me to “take charge of my own learning.” That lesson has stayed with me throughout my education and is something I strive to pass on to my students. Sharon Dragovich, not only an incredible math teacher but also my cousin, has consistently encouraged me in my career and offered her love and support. 

Tell us about a current project or school initiative that you’re excited about

I’m currently sponsoring the National English Honor Society (NEHS) pen pal project where members connect with young writers at local elementary schools. This initiative is designed to inspire and support both new and struggling writers by encouraging meaningful exchanges and fostering a love for writing.

South Asia: Meena Mishra, Dr.Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan International School Mumbai – India

What does being a regional winner of the Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards mean to you?

My journey from Pindaruch, a remote village in Bihar, to receiving this prestigious award is not just a personal achievement but also a story of determination and hard work. Receiving Cambridge Dedicated Teachers Award, will undoubtedly serve as a beacon of hope and motivation for teachers not only in India but throughout the world. This Cambridge Award is a testament to the fact that with dedication and perseverance, a teacher can achieve success regardless of their background or circumstances.

Cheers to Cambridge for its wonderful work and continuous dedication to education!

Why did you become a teacher?

I find immense joy in engaging with young minds and igniting their curiosity. I believe that the change we aspire to see in society can be instilled in the youth within classroom walls. As a teacher, I have the privilege of not only touching lives but also contributing to the creation of a positive and empowered society. This profound impact on shaping minds and fostering a better future is the driving force behind my choice to become a teacher.

Do you have a dedicated teacher who inspired you?

All my English teachers were incredibly inspiring individuals. I admired how they captivated our attention and nurtured a deep love for literature within me. During my pursuit of English Honours, I encountered a remarkable English scholar, Prof. R.N. Jha, residing in Hazaribag. He had a unique approach of treating his students like his own children, and I learned this invaluable lesson from him. Today, I carry forward his ethos by treating my students with the same care and dedication as if they were my own children.

Do you have a memorable teaching moment?

I had a student with autism in my school and she had her unique challenges. One day, I narrated a story I wrote titled “Telegram” to the class, but I didn’t receive any immediate reaction from her.

After several days, I encountered her in the lift, and to my surprise, she exclaimed with joy, “You are Meena Miss! You told me that story about the telegram.” I was taken aback and asked her, “Did you like it?” She replied enthusiastically, “Yessss.”

That moment was a profound realization for me, highlighting how we as teachers can make a meaningful impact on the lives of our students, even in ways we may not immediately realize.

Tells us about a current project you’re excited about

For the upcoming academic year, I’ve made a decision to conduct classes for underprivileged students. I’ve collaborated with a local school that caters to children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Together with a team of like-minded educators, we’ve crafted a timetable and shared it with the school. This initiative is a part of my broader social commitment to give back to society, and I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity to make a positive impact on these students’ lives through education.

East Asia: Pengfei Jiang, Zhuji Ronghuai Foreign Language School, Zhuji, Zhejiang – China

What does being a regional winner of the Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards mean to you?

I am honored to have received the regional winner award for the 2024 Dedicated Teacher Awards. I am grateful for the recognition of my past work, and I acknowledge that my achievements today would not have been possible without the support of my team.

Furthermore, I see this award as a wonderful platform that allows me to encourage more educators to engage in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It’s an opportunity for me to advocate for greater involvement in this important area of education and to promote awareness about sustainable development goals among educators and students alike. I hope to use this recognition to inspire others to join in this crucial educational initiative.

Why did you become a teacher?

During my time in Junior High School, I struggled with learning in most subjects and was labeled as the “Black Sheep” of the class due to my poor academic performance, which made me feel very inferior. However, with the help of a classmate, I discovered a passion for learning and began to enjoy it. Ms. Tianyun Shen, whom I met during my foundation programme at the University of Bristol, shared interesting bits of knowledge and unique insights that helped me realize that learning can be engaging in all aspects. I even took short courses at UAL to learn how to create jewelry, boots and bags, and attended Le Cordon Bleu to learn how to make macarons. I aim to spread the concept that learning is a journey to more students like myself who was struggling with learning, so they can see learning as a fun experience. Thanks to her, I was determined to become a teacher.

Do you have a dedicated teacher that inspired you?

My English teacher, Ms. Li Li. Prior to meeting her, I had no knowledge of English. I viewed learning English as a complex puzzle to solve. I would pronounce words randomly and write papers without much structure. However, Ms. Li taught me how to approach English learning with patience and encouragement. Her guidance not only helped me succeed in learning English but also inspired me to tackle other subjects. Thanks to her dedicated tutoring throughout my pre-university studies, I was able to pursue higher education.

Her impact on me went beyond just teaching English; she also taught me how to learn effectively. Her teaching influenced me and altered the trajectory of my entire life. She transformed me from a student with poor English grades to someone who could communicate fluently in English, sparking an interest in other subjects. It is because of her that I chose to study education for both my undergraduate and master’s degrees, focusing on how to help students learn better.

Do you have a memorable teaching moment?

One memorable teaching moment involved introducing SDGs education to students who were initially unfamiliar with the concept of sustainability in a high school setting. To overcome this challenge, we adjusted our communication methods to better connect with the local community, including hosting regular informational sessions like sustainability workshops. Through patient explanations to students and other stakeholders like parents, we emphasized the importance of sustainability.

As a result of our efforts, students have become enthusiastic about learning SDGs and have demonstrated the ability to address SDGs-related issues. Our students expressed feeling empowered by the practical tools provided through the school’s SDGs-focused STEM curriculum.

Tell us about a current project or school initiative that you’re excited about

We have just been granted to host the 2024 Local Conference of Youth by YOUNGO, which serves as the official voice of young people from across the globe in the United Nations (UN) climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The conference theme, “Climate Change, Sustainable Youth”, aims to emphasize the vital connection between the actions of the younger generation and the sustainable future of our planet.

By focusing on climate awareness, impactful climate actions, and advancements in food science, the conference seeks to foster a deeper understanding of the critical role the youth play in shaping a sustainable future. Additionally, it aims to promote discussions on climate science, food science and their interrelationships, encouraging innovative solutions and responsible practices that will contribute to a healthier, more sustainable Earth for generations to come. We aim to expand our reach to partner schools across the nation and involve a larger audience in educating about SDGs.

Latin America: Ramon Majé Floriano, Montessori sede San Francisco, Pitalito – Colombia

What does being a regional winner of the Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards mean to you?

This recognition not only highlights my ability to impart knowledge but also my capacity to inspire, motivate, and support my students, teachers, and the community at large. Being recognized as a regional winner signifies that my work has been valued and admired by the global educational community.

In addition to personal satisfaction, this award provides me with visibility and recognition within the global educational community, which can open new opportunities for collaborations, professional development, and sharing my expertise with other educators.

Why did you become a teacher?

I decided to become a teacher because from a very young age, I felt a deep passion for sharing knowledge and contributing to the holistic development of individuals through education. I firmly believe in the transformative power of teaching to inspire, motivate, and empower students, not only in academic contexts but also in their personal growth and life skills development.

The opportunity to positively impact the lives of others, to be a catalyst for change in society, and to cultivate a stimulating and enriching learning environment, was what drew me to the teaching profession. Additionally, the desire to share my passion for mathematics and physics, and to help students discover and develop their potential in these areas, was a determining factor in my choice.

Being a teacher provides me with the opportunity to be part of the growth and development process of my students, to be a role model, and to leave a positive mark on their lives. Through my educational work, I aspire to inspire a love for learning, foster intellectual curiosity, and cultivate the skills necessary for my students to become responsible, critical, and engaged citizens in their communities.

Do you have a dedicated teacher who inspired you?

It’s fascinating to reflect on the significant role all my teachers have played in my life, from my childhood through university. Each of them has left an indelible mark, whether through their teaching in the classroom, their support outside of it, or simply their example as role models.

I’m grateful to those who inspired me with their passion for teaching, those who motivated me to overcome academic and personal challenges, and those who provided guidance and support when I needed it most. I also acknowledge the impact of those who challenged me to think critically and creatively, helping me develop skills that transcend the academic realm.

Each of my teachers has uniquely contributed to my growth and development, and I’m deeply thankful for the time, energy, and care they’ve invested in my education. Their dedication and commitment to teaching have left an indelible mark on my life, and I’ll always carry with me the lessons and learning they’ve provided.

Do you have a memorable teaching moment?

Being recognized as the best school in the world for environmental action due to my work in CAFELAB COLOMBIA stands out as a memorable teaching moment. This achievement not only acknowledges my dedication and leadership as an educator, but also the tangible impact my work has had on the school community and beyond.

This moment not only celebrates the success of the project I lead, but also highlights the transformative power of education when combined with a commitment to the environment and sustainability. It is a testament to the crucial role educators can play in raising awareness and driving action on important issues such as environmental protection and promoting a more sustainable future.

Tell us about a current project or school initiative that you’re excited about

The current project I’m working on is called CAFELAB COLOMBIA, an initiative that integrates the school with the community and the territory. This project aims to develop environmental leaders capable of addressing global issues. I’m excited about the opportunity to make a positive impact both locally and globally by empowering students to become agents of change in their communities and beyond. My goal is to scale up this initiative to reach a broader audience, aiming for a larger impact on environmental protection and sustainability promotion. I’m excited about the transformative potential of this project and the journey ahead to make it a reality.

Pakistan: Saeeda Salim, SISA – School of International Studies in Sciences & Arts – Pakistan

What does being a regional winner of the Dedicated Teacher Awards mean to you?

Being a regional winner fills me with pride and excitement. I feel honoured to have been selected for the Dedicated Teacher Award. As a regional winner, I embrace the responsibility of representing my region with honour and integrity, eager to inspire others to pursue their dreams relentlessly.

Why did you become a teacher?

I have a passion for imparting knowledge and shaping young minds. I find fulfilment in witnessing students’ growth and success. Teaching allows me to make a meaningful contribution to society and inspire future generations.

Do you have a dedicated teacher that inspired you?

My father had a profound impact on me as a dedicated teacher. His commitment to educate rural people and running his NGO (Rural Development Foundation) served as a source of inspiration and motivation for me. He influenced my educational journey as well as my interactions with my staff, students and their parents.

Do you have a memorable teaching moment?

One memorable teaching moment was witnessing the determination and resilience of a visually impaired student as he excelled academically, achieving high grades in O and A Levels despite facing unique challenges, eventually going to NYU Abu Dhabi on full scholarship and graduating with high honours. This student’s success serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of inclusivity and the limitless potential of every individual, regardless of their circumstances.

Tell us about a current project or school initiative that you’re excited about

Environmental Sustainability Project: Implementing a school-wide initiative to promote environmental sustainability by reducing waste, conserving energy, and promoting eco-friendly practices. This could involve activities such as organizing recycling drives, creating composting systems, installing energy-efficient lighting, and educating students about the importance of environmental stewardship.

Southeast Asia & Pacific: Sydney Engelbert, Keningau Vocational College, Keningau – Malaysia

What does being a regional winner for the Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards mean to you?

I am grateful and speechless. For starters, I never would have thought to be selected as the regional winner as other nominees were all amazing and I am truly honoured to be nominated amongst them. Yet, the overwhelming support that I have from my family, friends, colleagues and my students made me realize that I am not alone on this journey.

Why did you become a teacher?

Both of my parents are teachers and growing up, I have witnessed how many lives that they have touched and inspired throughout their careers. Despite receiving awards and recognition for their years of service, my parents would often say that the proudest thing about being a teacher is when their former and current students still remember and respect them. Many of their former students still remember them fondly for being their teachers. That is what made me to pursue this profession.

Do you have a dedicated teacher that inspired you?

There are a lot. But the one who inspired me the most is my additional mathematics teacher back in secondary school. I remember how she would dedicate her time and effort for all of her students to teach a really hard subject. She has inspired me both in her dedication, hard work and her amazing rapport with every student she taught.

Do you have a memorable teaching moment?

My most memorable teaching moment was when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit and we had to close schools. We had to divert to teaching online classes which was never done before both by our students and teachers here. It was a challenging and a learning moment for all of us. We had to put aside our usual teaching method and fully utilise digital materials.

Tell us about a current project or school initiative that you’re excited about

As the Head of Internationalisation Unit, currently, our college is getting involved with more exchange programme such as Global Online Classroom, AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program, Gaja! Korea Autumn exchange program and more to come in the coming future. Such projects are beneficial for both teachers and students alike. I am excited as this gives more opportunity to broaden our horizon and making our marks internationally.

Sub Saharan Africa: Odufeso Tajudeen, Isara Secondary School, Isara Remo, Ogun State – Nigeria

What does being a regional winner mean to you?

Being a winner means a lot to me. I am excited and motivated. Glory be to Almighty God for the grace received to be among 14,800 nominated teachers, final 90 shortlisted educators across the world and declared a Regional Winner in Sub-Sahara Africa Countries for 2024 Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards. I am very happy for the good news. I am encouraged to put more efforts in my teaching career. Thank you Cambridge for the award and recognition.

Why did you become a teacher?

I became a teacher because of my passion for teaching, to serve my students, school, community, my state, Nigeria at large and to serve humanity. To contribute meaningfully to the lives of the young ones, especially in the area of technology and to contribute to the development of education.  

Do you have a dedicated teacher that inspired you?

Yes, Mr. Adewale Kayode, a multiple award winner and Fulbright Teaching Excellence & Achievement (TEA) Alumni, USA. He is my mentor. I have learnt a lot from Mr. Kayode.  He is dedicated to teaching and transforming education through technology.

Do you have a memorable teaching moment?

A memorable teaching moment that I will never forget was during COVID-19 Pandemic where teaching and learning suddenly stopped and as a researcher and 21st century educator, learning must not stop. Learning must continue no matter the condition and that was why I organized e-learning classes for Junior and Senior Secondary School students in Ogun State.

The students were seriously engaged using asynchronous and synchronous E-learning via WhatsApp with the support of my Principal, Mrs. Ajayi O.A and 29 Voluntary teachers across the state. An assessment was carried out. The best students from each class and the overall best were awarded with certificates, cash prizes and writing materials.

Tell us about a current project or school initiative that you’re excited about

Digital literacy. Digital literacy is the ability to access, communicate, manage, understand, integrate and create information safely and appropriately through digital technologies for teaching and learning and for better results. Using digital tools in education, from online portals to advanced research databases, enhances learning outcomes.

This initiative is for both teachers and the students in the school and aiming to empower both teachers and students to access information, communicate effectively, think critically, and navigate the digital landscape responsibly within the class and across the world. Many students have been trained on the usefulness of technological gadgets. Teachers have been inspired to always make use of technology in impacting knowledge beyond four walls of the classroom.  I am excited for the digital literacy program for effective teaching and learning and to prepare our students beyond secondary school level.

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