World’s Best Educator Award

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Last week, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the award for World’s Best Educator was given to Maggie MacDonnell: a teacher from the Canadian Arctic. The award is given out in a different country by a committee, annually, to educators who meet and surpass certain criteria.

MacDonnell was granted the award because of her outstanding teaching work in Ikusik School in Salluit, Canada; an Inuit village with a population of just over 1,000. The Inuit are a tribe of Native Americans living in small numbers in the Canadian North, some of which live in Salluit. Throughout her life, she has dedicated her life to helping and serving groups of people around the world, particularly the native Inuit community of Canada.

MacDonnell grew up in rural Nova Scotia, a province in the southeast of the country. During this time, the difficulties of Inuit life in Canada were surfacing in the news. Canadians soon learned that the native Inuit populations suffered restrictions from environmental protections, seasonal depression, and social inequalities.

Because of Salluit’s isolation and extremely cold climate, many people, teens in particular, suffer depression. As a result, many turn to drugs, smoking, or alcohol. This substance abuse combined with mental instability can lead to suicide. In 2015 alone, there were 6 suicides in the small town, all of which affected young men aged 18 to 25. Gender roles in the Canadian Arctic are also a serious issue. Sexual assault and abuse is not uncommon. On top of that, many teachers do not stay to teach through the entire year: they take a stress leave. The school in Salluit doesn’t currently have a principal.

To combat these problems, MacDonnell has started an initiative to teach valuable life stills to undereducated youth, in particular girls. Her program lets students run a community kitchen, attend suicide prevention courses, and participate in nature conservation activities such as hiking through national parks and learning how to conserve precious resources. In addition, the initiative has raised $37,000 for a diabetes prevention campaign, as diabetes has become an increasing issue in recent years.

MacDonnell plans to continue teach and help the Arctic minority populations of Canada.

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