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Australian educator in the running for world’s best teacher

It’s not often that teachers are acknowledged for their hard work and the responsibilities they take on.

That’s why competitions like Cambridge University Press’s annual search for the most dedicated teacher are so important. They motivate and reinvigorate teachers, helping them to believe that what they are doing in the classroom is having a tangible effect on their students and, by extension, society at large.

Helen Comerford has been named as a finalist in the Dedicated Teacher Award. Photo: Supplied

This year, learning coordinator Helen Comerford has been named a finalist in the prestigious competition, thanks, in her own words, to her “love and concern for every student”.

Over 6000 nominations were received from 97 countries this year, “each detailing an inspiring story about an extraordinary teacher".

Expert judges selected the finalists from a shortlist released in December – which included two other Australian teachers – based on whether the nominees met the award's criteria.

Some of the criteria included “teacher demonstrates innovative practices, provides fantastic pastoral care, and prepares students for their futures beyond school”.

Comerford is the learning enrichment coordinator at Lumen Christi Catholic College in Pambula, New South Wales. Situated in the Bega Valley Shire, the town has a population just shy of 1000. Comerford has a reputation for being “uncompromising in advocating for students with disabilities and has created a truly inclusive environment”. She has 10 years of secondary science teaching behind her and is enrolled in a Master of Education (Inclusive Practice) at the Australian Catholic University.

She is Australia’s only finalist, with the others coming from countries as diverse as Zambia, the Philippines, Colombia and India.

Each finalist is guaranteed to receive a set of class books or digital resources. The teachers will also feature on the front page of every new Cambridge University Press Education textbook from May 2020, and will receive an invitation to the Cambridge Panel, specialists who shape the future of education publishing for the company.

“Teachers say and do life-changing things every day – often without realising it,” says Michael McGarvey, director of education at Cambridge University Press.

"This could be something as simple as a kind word at a difficult time or explaining a concept in a way that suddenly makes everything click into place for the student. For that, we’d like to join with people around the world to say thank you together.”

Last year’s winner of the Dedicated Teacher Awards was Ahmed Saya, a maths and accounting teacher from Karachi, Pakistan, who beat 4000 other applicants across 75 countries to clinch the award.

The winner, who will be chosen via a public online voting formwill be announced on February 3.

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