Dr Ken Silburn in top 10 for Global Teacher prize

DR Ken Silburn could leave Dubai on Sunday night one million dollars richer.

The head science teacher at Casula High School, who lives in the Highlands, was one of the 10 finalists for Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize 2017.

Dr Silburn, who developed an enrichment program for high school students, in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) was selected from more than 20 000 nominations across 179 countries.

“I was thrilled when I found out I was nominated. Being selected as a finalist is a reflection of the great students, and great teachers who I work with that share the same enthusiasm for teaching,” he said.

“All children have a right to a good education. It’s not a privilege predetermined by your financial, social background or gender. All students around the world deserve to have the same opportunities and dreams as the students in my class.”

The winner, who will be announced on March 19, will win one million dollars.

If he wins, Dr Silburn said he would use the money to set up a foundation to assist teachers in remote schools to inspire their students with science.

But is not only students at Casula High who have benefited from Dr Silburn’s teaching.

As well as teaching and running the iSTEM (Invigorating STEM) program, Dr Silburn organises a program for students to travel to the US for the Advanced Space Academy Program and works with teachers and students in India.

“The highlight of the year was the time that I was able to work with teachers and students in remote India. It proves that regardless of where you are in the world students get excited by science,” he said.

In August 2016 Dr Silburn joined NASA scientists as part of a 35-member international team that traversed Ladakh for 10 days visiting several lakes, hot springs, glacial and permafrost covered regions.

The team conducted several scientific experiments to study the cold, high altitude UV radiated desert of the Himalayas in India to understand microbial life in extreme environments.

He was able to join educators from the US, Australia and India to interact with school children from remote villages in Ladakh, inspiring them to study science and technology and join this pursuit of space exploration.

“ I am concerned that there appears to be a trend for students not to study science after the compulsory time of high school. I am especially concerned over gender stereotyping that stops girls from studying science, engineering and maths.”

He then spent a further three weeks working with Indian students and teachers on teaching STEM.

This program was supported by the Australian High Commission as part of the Australia India Eminent Research Lecture Series.

Founder of the Varkey Foundation Sunny Varkey congratulated Dr Silburn on being a finalist.

“I want to congratulate Ken Silburn for being selected as a top 10 finalist from such a huge number of talented and dedicated teachers," he said. 

“I hope his story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over Australia and throughout the world every day.”

He was the recipient of the 2015 Prime Minister’s Prize for excellence in science teaching.

He has also been recognised with a New South Wales Engineering and Science award for Innovation in Mathematics and Science teaching, a National Educational Leadership award, a Microsoft Innovator award, and numerous other teaching and community awards.

Dr Silburn also organises an enrichment program for all high school students in Years 9-11 to go to the US space academy in September.

To learn more about this program visit www.spacecamp.com.au

The Global Teacher prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.

The other finalists for Global Teacher of the Year are:

  • Raymond Chambers, a computer science teacher from Brooke Weston Academy in Corby, Northamptonshire
  • Salima Begum, Headteacher at Elementary College for Women Gilgit, Pakistan
  • David Calle, from Madrid, Spain, the founder and creator of the Unicoos educational website
  • Wemerson da Silva Nogueira, a science teacher at the Escola Antônio dos Santos Neves in Boa Esperança, Brazil
  • Marie-Christine Ghanbari Jahromi, a physical education, maths and German teacher at Gesamtschule Gescher school, in Gescher, Germany
  • Tracy-Ann Hall, an automotive technology teacher at Jonathan Grant High School in Spanish Town, Jamaica
  • Maggie MacDonnell, from Ikusik School in Salluit, Nunavik, northern Quebec, Canada
  • Yang Boya, a psychology teacher at The Affiliated Middle School of Kunming Teachers College, China
  • Michael Wamaya, a dance teacher from Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya
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