Rohan Roberts
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Two teachers from the UAE are among the teachers from the Middle East who have been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2017.

Now in its third year, the US$1 million award is the largest prize of its kind and is awarded under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

The two UAE teachers shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2017 are:

  • Shaikha Al Shehhi, an English teacher from Al Dhait Girls Secondary School, Ras Al Khaimah.
  • Rohan Roberts, who teaches the GEMS Honours Progamme and Astronomy at the GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis in Dubai, and also oversees the GEMS Futures Curriculum in three schools in Dubai: First Point School, GEMS Modern Academy, and GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis.

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise 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 millions of teachers all over the world.

Rohan Roberts leads an Honours programme designed for gifted students from 40 GEMS schools in Dubai. Using a scientific perspective, he keeps up with findings in pedagogy and neuroscience, while using his many interests as astronomer, painter, author and musician to identify and develop the multiple talents of his students. Many of Rohan’s students are high achievers, progressing to international universities with full scholarships, gaining outstanding exam results and repeatedly winning the Cambridge International Award for distinguished performance in English.

Shaikha Al Shehhi began teaching as a child on her doorstep with her neighbours’ children, drawing and writing in chalk on the door of her home. As a teacher, she has taken a lead in educating her pupils in global citizenry, particularly in environmental matters, with her “Reducing Carbon Footprint” initiative. She has received a number of awards, the most important of which are the Khalifa Award for Education and the Creative Teacher Award 2016.

Shaikha Al Shehhi

The other teachers from the Middle East are Ali Al Matari, a mathematics teacher at Al Mutanabi Primary School, Ash Sharqiyah North Governorate, Sultanate of Oman and Sahar Fayyad, a primary school teacher from Amman, Jordan.

The top 50 have been shortlisted from over 20,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries from around the world. The top 50 shortlist has representatives from 37 countries and 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 and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday 19 March 2017.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said:

“We were overwhelmed by the huge support the Global Teacher Prize received this year. We intend to keep this momentum going as our journey continues to return teachers to their rightful position as one of the most respected professions in society.

“The tens of 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.”

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said:

“I count my teachers as among the most influential people in my life. Teachers are entrusted with nurturing the potential of the young and helping them blossom as productive and responsible members of society. It is hard to underestimate their value.

“I applaud the launch of the Global Teacher Prize, which recognises their worth. The award is in line with my Global Education First Initiative, launched in 2012, which aims to give momentum to the worldwide movement to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning and foster global citizenship.” 

The top 50 shortlisted teachers have now been judged by a Prize Committee with the final ten candidates to be announced in February 2017. The winner will then be chosen from ten finalists by a Global Teacher Prize Academy. All ten finalists will be invited to Dubai for the Award ceremony at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) on Sunday 19 March next year where the winner will be announced live.

Further information about the top 50 shortlist will be available from Wednesday 14 December here: To join the conversation online follow #TeachersMatter on: and