A UK Cypriot teacher based at a school from one of the country’s most deprived areas has won a million dollars in the annual Global Teacher Prize.

Andria Zafirakou beat 30,000 others from 170 countries to be crowned winner at the ceremony in Dubai.

The art and textiles teacher, who had been shortlisted to the final 10, works at Alperton Community School in Brent, London. It’s one of the UK’s most ethnically diverse and disadvantaged places.

Andria Zafirakou was born in London. Her mother, Anna, is Cypriot and her father is Greek who is well known in the community as he is the Reverend Georgios Zafirakou, the priest of the Greek Orthodox Church of All Saints in Camden, London.

Ms Zafirakou learned how to say basic greetings in many of the 35 languages spoken at the school, including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and Portuguese, to help parents feel welcome and included.

The winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2018 faced a daunting task when she joined the school. The challenges of poverty, gang violence and engaging young people from such a diverse range of backgrounds were all too clear.

However, throughout the school and on the streets – she is driving change.

Her own classroom is just the beginning though. After school, with a walkie-talkie in hand, she’s outside the school gates, getting pupils safely onto local buses and heading off ‘recruiters’ for the local gangs.

Gang violence is a major problem in the local area. She works closely with the police to identify potential issues and ‘recruiters’.

”You can’t let that come through the school gates,” she says. ”We have to protect our pupils – at all costs.”

The fourth annual Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize is worth one million dollars (£717,000).

Watch it here: Andria Zafirakou’s winning speech from the Global Teacher Prize 2018

Article written by London Greek Radio