Saskatchewan teacher in the running for $1M worldwide prize

SASKATOON – It’s considered the “Noble Prize” for teaching and a Saskatoon teacher has made the shortlist. Belinda Daniels is still in the running for a global award worth one million U.S. dollars after being narrowed down from 8,000 nominations.

Daniels, 42, has taught thousands of students over 15 years and is credited with going above and beyond when it comes to time in the classroom.

“I want to be in the shoes of my students. If I want them to be excited, I have to be excited about what it is we’re learning,” remarked Daniels, saying she felt she was born to teach but wasn’t inspired until she worked as an administrative assistant at a local high school.

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It’s this passion, excitement and self-curiosity that has lead her to be recognized as one of the best teachers in the world. On Wednesday, a list of the top 50 teachers was released by the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2016.

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Teachers top of their class that were selected from thousands of others from 148 countries worldwide for the Global Teacher Prize, an award that was set out to acknowledge one exceptional teacher and validate the profession as a whole.

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“It actually feels pretty overwhelming, I’m pretty excited at the same time,” said Daniels.

“I’m also pretty humbled to be picked out and noticed.”

What she teaches isn’t just from a textbook but rather from the heart.

“Indigenous studies, history, my language, the language of Nehiyawak which is Cree.”

On an educational leave from her position at Mount Royal Collegiate, Daniels also schools students at the University of Saskatchewan and has founded a successful Cree language summer program that has been running for 11 years.

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She has helped shaped Saskatchewan’s Core Cree curriculum with the Ministry of Education at a high school level which often leads students to find a sense of identity, faith and belonging.

“This is why it’s so important to go back to our original stories, oral histories, the making of treaties, the destruction of colonialism, all of that is so important for young people to know.”

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The next phase in this competition will be hand-picked by a prize committee and the winner chosen by the Global Teacher Prize Academy. All ten finalists will be invited to Dubai for the award ceremony in mid-March.

The winner will receive a million dollars over the course of 10 years and be provided financial counselling by the Varkey Foundation.

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“If I win the one-million dollar prize, I am definitely going to invest in indigenous languages, indigenous education, I’m definitely investing in decolonizing our education system.”

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