Chris Gleason, an instrumental music teacher at Patrick Marsh Middle School, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, is on the top 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2021 in partnership with UNESCO.

The US $1 million Global Teacher Prize is the largest prize of its kind.

Gleason was selected from over 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries around the world.

Gleason has spent 24 years working hard to create conditions for growth in his classroom and beyond. He has helped thousands of students, some struggling with adverse childhood experiences such as drug addiction, mental illness, abuse, and poverty, by resourcing instruments and supplies, developing a comprehensive program that provides individualized instruction designed for each student, and ensuring the content of his classroom intentionally focuses on social justice and social-emotional learning. His focus on studying the history and context of the music helps students better understand the world and themselves, as they use music study as a gateway to qualities like empathy and compassion.

His collaborations with composers and artists internationally allow his students to develop a truly global outlook and his work, including much in the local community, has seen him acclaimed the 2017 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, 2017 semi-finalist for the GRAMMY Music Educator Award, and the first Wisconsin teacher to be named a finalist for National Teacher of the Year in 50 years.

The Global Teacher Prize recognizes 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.

This year, the Varkey Foundation launched the Global Student Prize, a sister award to its $1 million Global Teacher Prize, to create a powerful new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere who are reshaping our world for the better. The winning student will receive $100,000.

Together, the Global Teacher Prize and the Global Student Prize will tell inspirational stories from both sides of education. The prizes will shine a spotlight on the great work teachers do in preparing young people for the future and the amazing promise the brightest students are showing in their learning and far beyond.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said:

“Congratulations to Chris for reaching the final 50. His story clearly highlights the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to global pandemics. It is only by prioritizing education that we can safeguard all our tomorrows. Education is the key to facing the future with confidence.”

Teachers who applied for the Global Teacher Prize are being assessed on teaching practices, how they innovate to address local challenges, achieve demonstrable learning outcomes, impact the community beyond the classroom, help children become global citizens, improve the teaching profession and gain recognition from external bodies. The US$1m award was won last year by Indian village teacher Ranjitsinh Disale.

Following today’s announcement, the top 10 finalists of both the Global Teacher Prize and the Global Student Prize will be announced in October this year. The winners of both prizes will be chosen from the respective top 10 finalists by the Global Teacher Prize Academy and the Global Student Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals. The winners are due to be announced at an awards ceremony in Paris in November.

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