Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I'm Headed to Dubai as a Top-10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize

Global Teacher Prize
 Photo Credit: Forbes.com
I'm writing this post on the morning of Tuesday, February 16th, 2016. Tonight, at 12:01AM EST, I am going to be announced as a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, widely considered the world's Nobel Prize of Education. I'm writing this post as the first in a series that will take you along with me on my journey through the presentation of the $1Million prize to the winner at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai on March 13th.  Just as I did when I won the PAEMST award a few years ago, I want to document the experience for those finalists in the future who are wondering what will happen, share my emotions and experiences with you, and preserve my experiences for myself so that one day I can look back and remember all of the details from this incredible time in my life. Maybe by writing down what's going on I can start to let the "realness" of it all sink in.  It's still hard to believe.

I've been sworn to keep my selection confidential until the official announcement has been made, so this post won't go live until tomorrow morning, the same time as the announcement.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to fall asleep tonight.  I can't wait to see who the other finalists are, and I am so excited to see the video that was created last month when a camera crew was at my school for two days. One of those mornings, while I was teaching in my classroom, the crew went up to the high school to interview some of my former students. When they heard that I was a top-50 finalist and that a camera crew was coming they asked if they could share their stories. I have no idea what they shared, and I'm looking forward to seeing if the great memories I have of them in my classroom match what they remember.

Scranton Times-Tribune Billboard
The outpouring of support from my local community in the past few months since being announced as a Top-50 finalist has been incredible.  I've been featured on the local news a few times, had a front page story in the Scranton-Times, had articles written about my teaching in local newspapers, and even had a billboard with my picture on it displayed in Scranton.  I am so very appreciative. I love my community, and they are the reason that I am so passionate about what I do.  It's such a blessing to know that everywhere I go there are people rooting for me.  It's also an amazingly encouraging sign that there are positive stories being written about education and teaching. With the narrative around education being so negative lately, it makes me proud that I can be part of the reason that the narrative is changing.

My travel plans are booked for Dubai already.  I'll be flying out of NYC with Melissa Morris, one of the finalists from last year's Prize. For two days before the GESF all of the top-50 finalists from both last year and this year have been invited to a summit in which we will be working together to look for ways to improve education around the world and improve the standing of the teaching profession.  I am as excited for this opportunity as anything else that is going to happen. Every one of these finalists that I have met in person or online has been a source of inspiration for me.  I feel incredibly honored to be mentioned alongside them. Being able to learn from all of them for two days will be amazing.

My wife, Lori, and my mother will be flying to Dubai a few days after me for GESF and the award ceremony. I'm looking forward to having them there to share the experience with me. Every amazing experience is made better when you have people you love to share it with.

Nancie Atwell and I in New York City
I almost didn't apply for GTP this year.  After being a top-50 finalist last year, I was thrilled to have received that recognition for doing what I love. In September, at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, I got the chance to meet Nancie Atwell, last year's winner.  She encouraged me to apply again this year. I'm sure she had no idea how powerful her words were to me. The ability to empower others around you naturally is a characteristic of a great teacher. Right after that, I was nominated by a teacher that I work with in my building and a teacher friend in South Africa for whom I have incredible respect.  That convergence of support and encouragement convinced me to take another shot. At the very least, I figured that it might give me more opportunity to advocate for student-centered education, global service learning, and the empowerment of teachers and students in our educational system.  Also, I didn't want to let down those who had thought enough of me to take the time to fill out a nomination.

So, here we are - hours before this huge announcement that will continue to shape my career in ways I never envisioned when I became a teacher. I realize that with this great honor comes the solemn responsibility to use my platform to fight for educational systems that put teachers and students in situations where they can use their unique talents to make the world a better place.

It's going to be an amazing journey.


  1. Dear, Michael Soskil, I'm so happy for you!!! Eagerly read your article. A best character!!! I wish you all the best!! Good Luck!!!

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