Sri Lankan-born Australian Yasodai Selvakumaran has been named a finalist for the US$1 million Global Teacher Prize, SBS News reported today.
Well-known Australian actor Hugh Jackman did the honours, announcing the list of 10 from a field of 10,000 applicants spanning 179 countries.
Yasodai Selvakumaran - fondly known as Ms Selva to her humanities students at Rooty Hill High School - has made the final shortlist for the 2019 Global Teaching Prize.
More than 10,000 teachers from around the world were nominated, but Ms Selvakumaran was the only Australian to make the top 10.
At a school where more than half the students come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Ms Selvakumaran said inclusive teaching is vital.
“Something I really strive for with my students is for them to understand they have a place in the world and to help them find their voice,” she said.
“That’s why it’s so important to teach the humanities, and it’s so important for students to see that Australia is multicultural and they do belong here.”
Ms Selvakumaran is not the first Australian to make it this far, with Sydney maths teacher and YouTube sensation Eddie Woo getting to the same stage last year.
This year, Ms Selvakumaran’s fellow top 10 teachers hail from all around the globe, with educators from Japan, Brazil, India, Georgia, The Netherlands, the UK, and the USA also making the final cut.
Born in Sri Lanka, Ms Selvakumaran’s family moved to Australia when she was just 10 months.
She said the motivation to become a teacher was inspired by the high value placed on education in her family and community.
“I’ve always come from a family that values education above everything, so when I told my parents I wanted to go into teaching, they were thrilled,” she said.
“I knew it wasn’t just about teaching for me. It was about pursuing history and promoting that all stories are important.”