Georgian Teacher Makes Final 10 for US $1 Million Global Teacher Prize 2019

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Vladimer Apkhazava, a Civic Education teacher at Chibati Public School, Tbilisi, Georgia, has been named a top 10 finalist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019, which is announced today at Now in its fifth year, the US$1 million award is the largest prize of its kind. In a special video message announcing the top ten finalists, actor, singer, and producer Hugh Jackman paid a powerful tribute to the work of teachers around the world.

He said:

“When I was a kid there were lots of superheroes that I wanted to be. But I can tell you right now, from where I stand, with all my experience, the real superheroes are teachers – they’re the ones that change the world.

“My favourite uncle was a teacher, my sister’s a teacher, my brother’s a teacher, and I have always felt the most important job in the world is teachers. My hope for every single person on the planet is that you have at least one.

“I think of Lisle Jones who was the most influential acting teacher I ever had. Prior to Lisle I could only get to a certain point. He used to say to me things like “You’re standing outside the character.” He said “You’re good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine, it’s OK. But what you need to do is to let go and trust.”

“As someone like me who did quite like to control things, that was transformative. And there was a moment for me about 18 months into my course – so this is the patience of a teacher – for 18 months he had to watch me being OK, maybe.

“And I remember this one monologue that I had to give and all of a sudden for me it felt completely different. I felt inside the character. And halfway through – it was a big audience, it was in a theatre – that teacher and his big booming voice, he stood up, and in the dark I just heard this “YES! Finally.”

“All of us go through insecurity and doubt, trepidation, along this journey of life, and those teachers that see the best in us and are patient enough to allow us to grow into that, they are like gold.”

Vladimer Apkhazava and the other finalists have been selected from over 10,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries around the world. Separate to this, there have also been tens of thousands of applications for the 33 national Teacher Prizes that have been inspired by the Global Teacher Prize, since its launch five years ago. The winners of each National Teacher Prize were also put forward for consideration when the top 50 shortlist for this year’s global prize was decided.

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognize one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of teachers all over the world. 

The top ten have been narrowed down from the top 50 shortlist that was announced in December 2018. By highlighting their stories the Varkey Foundation hopes that the public will be able to join in passionate debates about the importance of teachers. The winner will be announced at the Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday 24 March 2019.

Vladimer Apkhazava teaches in an impoverished region of Georgia where economic pressures have forced parents of many students to move abroad for work, financially supporting their families from afar. As a result, many of his pupils miss breakfast in the morning, and the school has even had to call an ambulance to assist hungry children. Many students quit their studies, fleeing to neighbouring Turkey in search of jobs. Child labour is another problem in the region, which Vladimer has made it his mission to tackle, overcoming some initial public resistance, but with persistence and TV journalists taking up his cause, he has put it on the news agenda, all of which contributed to him winning the Georgian National Teacher Prize last year.

Vladimer ensures school events are accessible to all pupils, not just the outstanding ones, has raised funds from private enterprises and companies, as well as applying for many different grants to fund supplementary manuals, educational resources, and summer camp places for pupils from socially vulnerable families. He has also given a home to eight teenage boys who had to leave their parents’ homes due to domestic violence. To ensure his school is more open to student participation he launched a programme called “Democratic Revolution” to transform the running of the school into a series of processes similar to those of a real state. Communication between schoolchildren and teachers has improved, with the pupils taking a more active role. The programme has expanded to 14 other schools, with Vladimer travelling locally, to other regions and internationally to offer advice.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize, said:

“I want to congratulate Vladimer for being selected as a top ten finalist from such a huge number of talented and dedicated teachers. I hope his story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over Georgia and throughout the world every day.
“The thousands of nominations and applications we received from every corner of the planet is testimony to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives.”

The other nine finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2019 are:

Débora Garofalo a Technologies for Learning teacher at EMEF Almirante Ary Parreiras, São Paulo, Brazil;
Daisy Mertens, an all subjects teacher at community-based school De Vuurvogel, Helmond, Netherlands;
Andrew Moffat MBE, a Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) teacher from Parkfield Community School, Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom;
Swaroop Rawal, a Life Skills teacher, at Lavad Primary School, Gujarat, India;
Melissa Salguero, a Music teacher at P.S.48 Joseph R Drake elementary school, the Bronx, New York, United States;
Martin Salvetti Head of Automative Studies and Adult Professional Training, at EEST N°5 “2 de Abril” Temperley, Temperley, Buenos Aires, Argentina;
Yasodai Selvakumaran a history and society and culture teacher, at Rooty Hill High School, New South Wales, Australia;
Hidekazu Shoto, an English language and ICT teacher at Ritsumeikan Primary School, Kyoto, Japan;
Peter Tabichi, a Maths and Physics teacher at Keriko Secondary School, Pwani Village, Nakuru, Kenya.

The original top 50 shortlist, featuring teachers from 39 countries, was narrowed down to ten finalists by a Prize Committee. The winner will be chosen from this ten by the Global Teacher Prize Academy. All ten finalists will be invited to Dubai for the Award ceremony at the Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF) on Sunday 24 March, where the winner will be announced live on stage in a red carpet gala event.

Further information about the top 10 finalists will be available from Thursday 21 February here:
To join the conversation online follow #TeachersMatter on: and


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