And the nominees are… Thoughts on Global Teacher Prize

The final 10 nominees are in and they’re a wonderful choice. Of course I would be deluding myself if I wasn’t hoping for a spot among the shortlist of 10 nominees. Yes, I was disapointed. The closer you get the more you think that maybe, just maybe, there might be a chance that….  But I’m very glad for the 10 nominees and I’m glad that there is a Global Teacher Prize and it was already a huge honour to be amongst the 50 nominees. It sheds a spotlight on the wonderful work teachers are doing and the wonderful job we have working with children. All of the 50 nominated teachers are a bigger advert than any government agency can come up with (In the Netherlands these campaigns are exceedingly dull and lame) Each and everyone of them is showing what teaching is about: inspiration, opportunities, creativity. Who wouldn’t want to work in an environment like that? On the other hand the teaching profession is undervalued and plagued by many and similar issues worldwide. Teachers are valued individually, but as a profession we’re not. That really needs to change and the Teacher Prize is one step in that direction.

On the other hand we shouldn’t just rely on others awarding us an honour. It would be an empty gesture in itself if we do not also proudly claim discretionary space for our own. We’re not the role models that students deserve if we do not act accordingly. These wonderful 49 nominees are already doing that. Tom Bennet who is a role model and inspiration of how teachers should relate to research in eduation and who steadily working on an international Researched network. Cesar Bona is a focal point for educational reform in Spain and an inspiration for teachers in Latin America. And if the educational system is not doing the children justice you start your own schools like Elisa Guerra Cruz in Mexico.  Everyone has so many innovative teaching practises to share, from Vese Vesela Bogdanovic and her literally magical teaching experiences to Cameron Patterson, whose history  teaching practices are giving me food for thought.

Personally I already knew some of the teachers in the top-50. Tom is contributing to our new book. I’ve met Noah Zeichner in Canada at a teacher leadership conference. I’ll meet Jeff Charboneau at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession where we’ll be both making the case for teacher leadership. And both Jeff, Noah, Nancy Barile and I are already part of the Centre for Teacher Quality. Hopefully I’ll meet Mark Reid when he comes over to visit his family in the Netherlands. And I’m sure I’ll meet Mareike Hachemer soon, since she lives just around the corner (relatively speaking). But distance shouldn’t be a problem any more since we are all connected on-line. New information technology is allowing us to level not only institutional, but also national boundaries.

Now we’re also part of the Varkey Teachers Ambassadors Programme. I’m proud to be part of a growing international teacher network which will shape the future of education. Through their work these 49 teachers are already making a case for teacher led educational reform. How can we not give more responsibility and recognition to teachers if this is just a small sampling of what’s going on worldwide?

I wish the 10 nominees all the best in the world and I’ll conclude with these wonderful words of Dutch secretary of Education Jet Bussemaker and State Secretary Sander Dekker. Educational reform should be a combined effort of all parties involved. No matter how difficult that is sometimes, I think that is what we’re doing in the Netherlands.

Dear Jelmer ,  

What a pity that you have not reached the top 10 of The Global Teacher Prize. We would have supported such an honor awarded to you wholeheartedly. As for us , you have already earned it! But you will undoubtedly get over the disappointment quickly, because you have every reason to be proud of yourself. After all, according to the jury you already belong to the fifty best teachers in the world, and there is no teacher in the Netherlands who can repeat that!  

Therefore continue in the way that characterizes you: as an inspiring and motivating teacher for your students and therefore a role model for your colleagues. That way you can ensure that our education gets even better.  And then many more Dutch teachers will enter the top 50 of The Global Teacher Prize !  

With regards,

Jet Bussemaker

Sander Dekker

Beste Jelmer,

Wat jammer dat je niet bent doorgedrongen tot de top 10 van The Global Teacher Prize. We hadden je zo’n ereplaats van harte gegund. Wat ons betreft heb je die ook verdiend! Maar je zult ongetwijfeld snel over de teleurstelling heen komen, want je hebt alle reden om trots op jezelf te zijn. Volgens de jury behoor je immers tot de vijftig beste leraren ter wereld, en er is geen docent in Nederland die je dat na kan zeggen!

Blijf daarom vooral doorgaan op de manier die we van je kennen: als inspirerende en motiverende docent voor je leerlingen en daarmee ook als rolmodel voor je collega’s. Op die manier kun jij ervoor zorgen dat ons  onderwijs nóg beter wordt. En dan komen er nog veel meer Nederlandse leraren in de top 50 van The Global Teacher Prize!

Met vriendelijke groet,

Jet Bussemaker

Sander Dekker

(Well since I’m now free to do so I can now endorse my favourite teachers: Phalla Neang and Azizullah Royesh will hopefully both win!  🙂 I’m in awe of their achievements)


  • Souad Belcaid says:

    Dear Jelmer,
    Personally, after reading the short biography and achievements of the 49 finalists, I felt I had no chance whatsoever to win. But then I thought this is the beginning not the end. I felt motivated and inspired. My country is working on improving the educational system which is in such disarray and need of change. The moral of the teachers and parents as well is at its lowest ever.
    Since I work in an American school and with privileged Moroccan kids, a little attention was given to my nomination but it didn’t stop me from reaching to the community. I was ecstatic and excited when I spoke for the first time to first year Moroccan teachers working under harsh conditions in public schools . I am going to give workshops for free for the next months.
    Also, I was happy when one of our seniors in my school was working on a psychology research paper and had to observe my 6th graders doing math. In his report, he wrote: “I haven’t seen before students so excited about math. This refutes the idea that middle schoolers are unmotivated, lacking concentration skills and hard to handle.”
    And that exactly what I was trying all these years and I am still trying to convey to the teachers in my school and in the world that learning can be fun and meaningful. So Jelmer we are all winners and at the end we are all in it for the kids; aren’t we?
    Keep doing the wonderful work you’re doing and please keep sharing your wonderful ideas.

  • Ruth Frans says:

    Dear Jelmer – I first met you in 2008 (you probably don’t remember me) when I was a student at ICLON and was teaching Theory of Knowledge (Alderik’s class) as part of my teacher training at the Wolfert. I remember walking passed your classroom window on many occassions and loving what I was seeing. The level of engagement with students, the way you were passionately sharing content… Even then they all spoke very highly of you (I know from what I read that you feel you were ‘only just getting started’ back then). From following your blog and other media I have tried to keep track of where it was you were heading and your development continues to strike a chord in me and is a true inspiration. I have gone on to live and work in Russia and more recently Istanbul with my family. I am currently in a phase of reflection, where I am considering how to use the privilege of living here (on my husband’s salary) with combining my passion for designing learning experiences for all. In that process following you and your wonderful colleagues all around the world keeps the fire burning! And to the previous commentator – Souad – I would like to say: how truly encouraging to see that you are reaching out to the community and the teachers who do not have the ‘privilege’ of working in a private school. This is what occupies my mind at the moment – in so many developing countries the trend to privitisation of education raises a lot of questions for where this will lead their societies. Truly amazing things are being experimented with in many of these schools, but they reach a very limited number of people – who often, if given the chance, will go abroad for further studies and careers…It is in connecting with the rest of society that I believe the true change and inspiration lies. Once again – congratulations to all the nominees and thanks for being shining lights throughout the world.
    Ruth Frans

    • admin says:

      Hey Ruth!

      Sorry I only saw your comments just now, it has been really busy! Yes of course I remember you, great to hear from you. And yes I was only getting started at the Wolfert 🙂 What matters is that we try to make a profound impact on children no matter where we teach. Each and every child, no matter his or her background deserves the best education we can give them. Make those connections in- and outside of the classroom and change will happen 🙂 Hope to see you at a reunion at the Wolfert!


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