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Andria Zafirakou was born in north-west London to Greek-Cypriot parents and attended state schools in Brent and Camden. She has worked her entire teaching career of fourteen years at Alperton Community School, where she is an art and textiles teacher and Associate Deputy Headteacher. Her willingness to go above and beyond for her students saw her win the Global Teacher Prize, dubbed the 'Nobel of Teaching', in March 2018. With the prize money of $1 million, Andria set up Artists in Residence, a charity that brings professional artists into disadvantaged schools across the UK. In 2019, she was appointed an MBE for her services to education. She is a Culture Leader for the World Economic Forum and a member of the Global Future Leaders Council, and has been named one of the top ten most influential people in London by the Evening Standard. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. @Andriazaf
I was not too sure what to expect when picking up this book but having read the introduction and hearing the author speak on Woman’s Hour Radio 4, I was keen to start. It is an incredibly readable book. Not what I was expecting, a book to inspire teachers, but a book packed with the most fascinating, and often quite harrowing stories of her pupils at Alperton Community School. She talks about the children in such an insightful way, telling the reader not just about their time in the classroom, but about their background and their families and the huge impact this has on their abilities and successes in school. The difficulties and challenges some of her pupils’ face are both memorable and moving. She conveys to the reader so clearly the effect that lack of language, cultural differences, cramped conditions and poverty can have on a child’s ability to learn. She looks at the whole person, beyond the bluff and bravado to the real child beneath. Her empathy with her pupils and the obvious passion for her subject really do shine through. I liked her honesty. She believes that she is ‘almost an imposter’ and there are far more worthy winners of the Global Teachers Prize, but reading the many examples she writes about, I feel she is underselling herself. She intersperses her account with insights into her own life, her upbringing and her adult life with her family. The book teaches us all valuable life lessons: Never judging a child on first impression and the importance of mutual respect are two themes that run throughout the book. I thought initially, it was a book for teachers, but this is a book for anyone. I think on reading it, we will all wish that we had had a teacher such as her when we were at school.