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Iranian teacher shortlisted for 2021 Global Teacher Prize

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iranian teacher Soraya Motaharnia

An Iranian teacher has made it to the top 50 shortlist for 2021 Global Teacher Prize, regarded as the world’s most prestigious teacher award, and its $1 million prize money.

The Global Teacher Prize, which is now in its seventh year and organized by the Varkey Foundation in partnership with UNESCO, aims to recognize exceptional teachers across the world and for the current year attracted over 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries.

Soraya Motaharnia, an outstanding math, Persian language, art, science, and theology teacher, has been praised in Iran for helping the most vulnerable students in rural Iran.

She funds students in need of medical treatment and multiple special surgical procedures and provides financial assistance to hundreds of poor students.

Motaharnia, who has been teaching for the past 30 years, says studying, taking care of the weak, and the desire to play a role in promoting her society, as three major forces, have constantly pushed her forward throughout her life.

Quite shortly after her graduation from university, she was assigned a teaching post at a remote village near Sanandaj, the capital of the western province of Kurdistan. This was the beginning of a never-ending journey of teaching and helping poor students in different localities in her home province and beyond.

Motaharnia’s “own parents’ encouragement motivated her to establish a charity, helping 1,100 students who had medical and educational problems and providing jobs for women with marriage difficulties and divorce. Her caring crusade has extended to collecting money for earthquake victims in Kermanshah province and flood-stricken people in Lorestan province,” said the Global Teacher Prize Varkey Foundation on its official website.


As for her teaching career, she has taught in other remote locations around Iran and has developed innovative teaching techniques.

Her teaching techniques include “dictation tips to improve the writing ability of students, combining subjects such as maths and physical exercise to improve student participation and motivation, teaching science through fun activities, encouraging her students to paint from nature in her art classes and other forms of game-centered teaching, brainstorming and personal lesson plans based on individual student needs,” it added.


Motaharnia also employed Internet resources to create animation, motion graphics, and amusing educational videos for students, as well as arranging camping trips to visit historical cities, along with museums and science centers in an attempt to familiarize students with the outside world.  

She says her biggest achievement was reducing the number of school dropouts to near zero.

Motaharnia has been acclaimed through a series of awards for all her efforts both in teaching and helping poor students. For two consecutive years, she was declared the best teacher in Iran.

The Global Teacher Prize, which has been referred to by journalists as the Nobel Prize for teaching, was launched in 2014 to recognize one exceptional teacher who has made a significant contribution to the teaching profession as well as to put emphasis on the influential role teachers play in society.

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