For her work in promoting non-violence and assisting young children exposed to violence, Palestinian Hanan al-Hroub has been awarded the 2016 Global Teacher Prize. The honor, announced by Pope Francis in a video message, comes with a $1 million dollar grant to help the winning teacher continue and expand his or her critical work.
“I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage," Hroub said during her acceptance speech. "I accept this as a win for all teachers in general and Palestinian teachers in particular. Each day, the role of the teacher is reinforced and its importance confirmed as the world questions what future we want for our children.”
A former refugee herself, Hroub teaches primary school children in the West Bank city of al-Bireh, working under the mantra of "no to violence" and building respectful, trusting and affectionate relationships between students. Her custom approach, which has led to a decline in violent behavior in local schools, has been widely praised and copied.
Her win came from a pool of 10 international teachers hailing from such countries as Australia, Finland, India, Japan, Kenya, Pakistan, Britain and the United States. More than 8,000 teachers worldwide were nominated for the prize.
In addition to the pope, the star-studded ceremony also included video tributes to the nominees from Prince William, President Bill Clinton, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and actors Matthew McConaughey and Salma Hayek.
As for what Hroub plans to do with the money, she told the Associated Press that it will go towards scholarships for students interested in one day becoming inspiring teachers themselves.
"The Palestinian teacher can talk to the world now," she added. "Hand in hand we can affect change and provide a safe education to provide peace."