Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik March 20, 2017 - 7:00 am

Nunavik teacher wins $1 million Global Teacher prize

Maggie MacDonnell turns problems into solutions

Maggie MacDonnell, centre, holds up the Global Teacher award she received March 19 in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The award comes with a $1 million prize which MacDonnell plans to use to start a non-government organization. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GLOBAL TEACHER AWARD)
Maggie MacDonnell, centre, holds up the Global Teacher award she received March 19 in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The award comes with a $1 million prize which MacDonnell plans to use to start a non-government organization. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GLOBAL TEACHER AWARD)
Direct from the International Space Station: Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut on board the space station, announces that Maggie MacDonnell, second from right, has won the Global Teacher award for 2017. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GLOBAL TEACHER AWARD)
Direct from the International Space Station: Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut on board the space station, announces that Maggie MacDonnell, second from right, has won the Global Teacher award for 2017. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GLOBAL TEACHER AWARD)

A Salluit teacher, Maggie MacDonnell, has won a $1 million award—the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize for 2017—with which she plans to start an organization to promote environmental stewardship among Inuit youth.

“We matter. Teachers matter. Thank you so much,” said MacDonnell after her win was announced March 19 at a gala in Dubai by astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the International Space Station.

MacDonnell was among 10 finalists—chosen from 20,000 who had applied—for the international award, presented to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

MacDonnell, who arrived at Nunavik’s Kativik School Board from Nova Scotia in 2010 and then to Ikusik School in 2012, talks about her life as a teacher in the Hudson Strait community of roughly 1,300 in a March 19 news release about the Global Teacher award.

“I think as a teacher in a small Arctic community, your day never ends. The school doors may close—but the relationship with your students is continuous as you share the community with them,” MacDonnell said.

Citing the isolation faced by teachers as well as the social problems, such as suicide (six suicides in Salluit in 2015, all among men aged 18 to 25,) the release said it takes “a remarkable teacher just to work in such an environment. But to do what Maggie has done requires something quite extraordinary, something very special.”

That’s “turning problems in[to] solutions,” the release said.

MacDonnell started a life skills program, based on the Individualized Pathways of Learning, the KSB’s project-based educational program, to encourage young people to return to school, by engaging them in projects that interested them—from cooking to mechanics.

These projects included a fitness centre, community kitchen and a second-hand store.

“Giving them a new positive platform to stand upon while contributing to the community is transformative for both my students and the community,” MacDonnell said in the release..

Her students also raised nearly $40,000 for diabetes prevention.

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, MacDonnell served as temporary foster parent, even to some of her own students.

“On three separate occasions, I have had students come to thank me for saving their life. All of them had gone through difficult times when losing friends and family to suicide as well as experiencing other traumas in their life. Each of them had reached out to me in some way when they were battling their own thoughts of suicide,” MacDonnell is quoted as saying.

To MacDonald, the Global Teacher Prize said on Twitter that “this prize shows that the Inuit matter. Thank you for bringing global attention to them.”

And other messages of congratulations to MacDonnell immediately started appearing on social media after news of her win circulated March 19.

“Congratulations to this teacher from Salluit for winning the Global Teacher Prize! This is very well deserved! I will speak at the National Assemby, on Thursday, in order to highlight this wonderful achievement. Thank you, Maggie, for your hard and amazing work,” said Ungava MNA Jean Boucher.

And many from Nunavik congratulated MacDonnell on the Nunatsiaq News Facebook page.

The KSB said in a March 19 news release that MacDonnell’s award “stands not only as a recognition of her work at Ikusik School, Salluit, but also as an acknowledgement of the essential work performed by all teachers.”

“In this context, teachers play a key role in bringing about positive change for our youth, enabling them to stand strong and contribute their worldview to society, within and beyond our communities,” said Alicie Nalukturuk, the KSB’s president said in the release. “This is what the Global Teacher Prize is really about, celebrating teachers’ invaluable contribution.”

The Global Teacher Prize has been awarded since 2015 by the Varkey Foundation under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, United Arab Emirates Vice President, Prime Minister, and Emir of Dubai.



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(16) Comments:

#1. Posted by Not all teachers on March 20, 2017

This teacher won on her initiatives.  Full stop. 

Now do not water it down by claiming for all teachers. Many teachers are bloke and madam bloke teacher and did not even get nominated.  Just to be honest.

#2. Posted by Teacher/community on March 20, 2017

Great that the teacher won this, but not sure if the community appreciates this, and not even sure if the people understand. All kinds of good things can happen in Inuit communities, but that where it stops, can happen, but not. This has no guts to it. Too bad the teacher didn’t apply it to those who will use it.

#3. Posted by Minnie Napartuk on March 20, 2017

Just be happy for somebody else for once, Please!

#4. Posted by Hudson Strait on March 20, 2017

#2, of course the community is proud! Lots of shares on social media being proud. Finally a positive news for us and yet, you’re saying that you’re not sure if the community appreciates this.
Way to go Maggie! Nakurmiik!

#5. Posted by Caledon on March 20, 2017

Congratulations Maggie lass,
Not all people are as po faced and p. doff as #2.
You won fair and square,and it is entirely up to you what you do
with your award.

#6. Posted by crusifier on March 20, 2017

its just a matter of time until this good deed gets crusicfied by nunavimmiut just like the first air executives got when they got large bonuses. rest in peace good deed.

#7. Posted by Mary on March 20, 2017

We have a lot to be thankful for Maggie. I personally thank her for helping me when I felt helpless when my son was on drugs. I’m glad I could go to her and tell her about it and so she helped my son to stop that drug before it got worst. She’s been a blessing since she got here. Thank you very much Maggie you deserve it!

#8. Posted by Yes for maggie on March 21, 2017

As I read the comments, lots of misunderstanding as usual. Don’t see anything against the teacher, Maggie here. What I do see, and I believe it’s true, is that , it’s a waste of a good award, due to the lack of motivation in Nunavik Inuit communities to succeed at any worth while life enhanced event. Like Mary points out, drugs, and no one to turn to except the Maggie’s.

And it will continue to be only the Maggie’s to turn to, even as this nice award unfolds into dire straits of destruction amongst Salluit youth, because only Maggie, and maggie alone cares.

Why don’t the people take this opportunity to reflect on how unmotivated they are. I say thanks Maggie, but you can only do so much.

#9. Posted by Glenn Davis on March 21, 2017

I’ve been reading about your life up there in the north.  I was hoping for you to win!!  Congratulations congratulations!!  Thank you for all your hard work and contributions to the people of north!  I also work in various northern communities and I fully appreciate your challenges!  I am so proud of you!  Wishing you all the best in your future goals and projects!!
Go bluenosers!!😁

#10. Posted by neighbor on March 21, 2017

we are proud of you Maggie, you deserve what you got. For those who complains about what has been won, they just don’t understand how to care for other people like Maggie does. Maggie didn’t try to win big prize, she tries to win positive things from negative things. And that is what lead her to win big prize.Learn that from her.

#11. Posted by Gina Jean on March 21, 2017

Congratulation Maggie! very proud of the work you did and do smile
People may be nay-Sayers and pessimists of what is going on, but i am not!
The more seeds you sow the more reward you may reap and that is Maggie’s way, she gives what she can but the rest belongs to whoever is in the project.  As you can see the 3 people that went with her are go getting young adult who will potentially do great things.
Yes it needs to come from within the communities but example such as hers may lead to just that!
So lets appreciate all that this recognition will bring into light instead of being negative.

#12. Posted by living by example on March 21, 2017

#8 was eaten for breakfast by sasquatch.  A real stinker.

Maggie is a helper to many.  Appreciated for a heart of learning to understand and sharing knowledge of hope.  Working at her job beyond 100%.

#13. Posted by Living and loving on March 21, 2017

Hello commentor #12. You should read the comment #8 again. You should find that the comments towards Maggie are nothing but heroically. It’s the community that’s being critized for an undeserved amount of a great and wonderful award. If Maggie had this same award in one of the same communities in Nova Scotia , I think then it would make a big successful difference. If you are to follow this award to its end result in Salluit, you’ll hide your face in shameful torment in that period of time. It’s truly sad.

#14. Posted by Bonjour salluit on March 22, 2017

This is a great story. A teacher from Nova Scotia comes into Quebec, among the French teachers, goes into Nunavik Quebec among the Inuit teachers and the French teachers, and is able to show the world through an award competition that she is a wonderfully great person. She shows the world the pain and suffering of her students. Wake up quebec, wake up nunavik.

#15. Posted by know the difference on March 22, 2017

#13 commenting on #8 is all that could be commented without a ban had the real words to express been written.

Let this be a lesson to you.  Self control or be controlled.  Maggie is a free spirit.

#13 is more about conditional living and loving.

#16. Posted by Come on with the teachers from out there. on March 22, 2017

Good point to comment # 14. I agree. Where were those Inuit and or French or Quebec teachers all those years? Why does it take someone from a distance to make the difference. I tell you why. It’s because teachers like Maggie grew up with pride and compassion. And received the best of an education in Nova Scotia.

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