Global Teacher Prize Creates Conversation

jamie-mankerIn my high school classroom I talk to kids all the time. We discuss history, writing, dances, sporting contests; we talk about life and celebrations, and sometimes loss. But we rarely include the conversation topic of my teaching. Perhaps the reason is because my teaching is in the background – it is the system you don’t see. The lessons, the student groups, and the activities float behind the scenes allowing my students to do the work, complete the thinking, and spark the conversation.

I am grateful to the Global Teacher Prize for creating a space for conversations about teaching. As a top 50 finalist, my school newspaper wrote a story highlighting my 1 in 50 chance of winning a million dollar prize. Since the running of the story many students have stopped to ask about the award. This conversation was particularly poignant:

Student: When will you find out about the million dollars?

Me: Not until the middle of February. I really don’t think I have a chance. There are amazing teachers in the top 50, but I am proud to have put our school on the list.

Student: You didn’t think you would win teacher of the year either, but you did. You are great.

Me: Thanks, but I am still shocked to have won teacher of the year. I don’t have a special “thing.” I teach as well as everyone other teacher in this school. Everyone in the top 50 seems to have pretty impressive accomplishments reaching well outside of their classrooms. All I do it teach.

Student: You deserve it. You are the first teacher to show me the world from a perspective other than America.

And there is was. There was my “thing.” I am a history teacher who offers students another perspective on the world. We continued chatting making our way down the crowded hallway and by the time I reached my classroom I realized why we need to celebrate teachers with tangible events such as the Global Teacher Prize, Teacher of the Year Recognition or Thank a Million Teachers Campaign. All of these opportunities meant to celebrate teachers are valuable not just because of the prize at the end, but because they create the space for students, parents, and teachers to talk about teaching. These events and the media surrounding them often lead to the question of “why me” and provide the time to talk with students and families. These conversations provided me with amazing insight into the gifts I had given without ever knowing they have been given. As teachers we hope our work is worthwhile, yet rarely have the conversations to know for sure. Now I know.

Teachers need prizes not for the prize but rather for the conversation. The Global Teacher Prize has created an exciting event energizing students and teachers across the world. This celebration of the teaching profession is providing a platform for communities to talk about the real impact of teachers. Continue the conversation.


Jamie Manker

Top 50 Global Teacher Prize Finalist

2014 Missouri State Teacher of the Year

Social Studies Instructor: Rockwood Summit High School

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