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Two teachers from the Middle East have been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018 at Now in its fourth year, the US$1 million award is the largest prize of its kind.

Hiba Ballout, a biology teacher and science coordinator at Saint George Schools, Beirut, Lebanon, and Samar Naazal, who teaches robotics and physics to mainly Syrian and Palestinian refugee girls, in a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) school in Irbid, Jordan, were shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2018 having been selected from over 30,000 nominations and applications from 173 countries around the world.

LEBANON – Hiba Ballout

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.

Hiba Ballout has been an advisor for students in Model United Nations and Model Arab League programs organised by the Lebanese American University since 2011 which has helped her develop her students’ communications and leadership skills. As a member of Life-Link Friendship Schools she encourages her students to participate in international conferences and engage in worldwide issues such as climate change to increase their sense of global citizenship. In her biology teaching she pursues innovative and creative approaches to make learning fun – in one module on hormones she created a game with her students called “Endocrinopoly” based on the Monopoly board game but adapted to fit the field of science they were exploring. In September she won Lebanon’s Best Teacher Prize organised by the Arab Network for Popular Education.

Samar Naazal teaches in Irbid, a poor community with many girls dropping out of school owing to early marriage. In a bid to increase interest in science she introduced robotics into her lessons, which has raised her students’ awareness of international issues. Each year, she sets her female students a scientific research challenge focused on a different global problem which they must analyse, pose hypotheses and find solutions, before presenting them to experts. Global issues they have looked at include energy, transportation, food shortages, the elderly, disasters, education, waste and the animal world. Consequently, many of her students have gone on to great success with one winning first prize in an Arab-world science and engineering competition. Others are now working as physics teachers at the UNRWA. Recognised many times for her pioneering work in girls’ education, in 2015 she won the UNWRA Distinguished Teacher Award.


The top 50 shortlist has representatives from 33 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 18 March 2018.

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

“Congratulations to Hiba Ballout and Samar Naazal for reaching the final 50. I hope their stories inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world every day. 

“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. 

“We were overwhelmed by the huge support the Global Teacher Prize received this year. The over 30,000 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 top 50 shortlisted teachers are narrowed down to ten finalist teachers by a Prize Committee, with that result announced in February 2018. The winner will then be chosen from these ten finalists by the 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 18 March next year, where the winner will be announced live on stage.

Further information about the top 50 shortlist will be available from Wednesday 13 December here: To join the conversation online follow #TeachersMatter on: and