Canadian middle and high school teacher Maggie MacDonnell beat out thousands of applicants for the world’s best teacher prize this week thanks to her 6-year career in an isolated little village north of the Arctic Circle.

The Nova Scotia native was awarded the Global Teacher Prize of $1 million in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Sunday. The award has become one of the most prestigious gestures of recognition for excellent teachers worldwide. The ceremony served to praise Maggie’s astounding work in the village of Salluit.

The community has a small population of 1,400 people and can only be accessed by plane. The harsh weather conditions of the village has resulted in extraordinarily high rates of teacher turnover. Maggie’s school doesn’t even have a principal because he resigned after six weeks of stress leave. Most other teachers simply leave their posts mid-way through their term.

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The frigid, isolated conditions also lead to higher rates of substance abuse, self-harm, depression, sexual abuse, and suicide as a means of escape amongst students.

As a means of combatting these factors, Maggie has established a fitness center in the village so students can embrace a healthier lifestyle instead of resorting to drugs or alcohol. She has allocated funds for a $20,000 in-school nutrition program; created a life skills program for women dealing with the burdens of traditionally enforced gender rolls; and motivated her own students to raise $37,000 for Diabetes Prevention.

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Maggie has even become a temporary foster mom for several of her students and local children.

“Maggie’s whole approach has been about turning students from ‘problems’ to ‘solutions’ through initiatives such as ‘acts of kindness’ which has dramatically improved school attendance,” says the Global Teacher Prize page. “Specific examples include: running a community kitchen, attending suicide prevention training and hiking through national parks to understand environmental stewardship.”

If all of those achievements still don’t illustrate how much compassion MacDonnell has for her village, she also said that she plans on using the $1 million prize to further improve her community’s lifestyle and infrastructure.

(WATCH the video below)


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