Evans Odei, a mathematics teacher at Achimota School, has been named a top 10 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize 2021, organised by Varkey Foundation in partnership with UNESCO.
The Global Teacher Prize is a US$1 million award presented annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession.
Mr Odei was selected from over 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries around the world.
Evans Odei has been teaching for 20 years with the Ghana Education Service, falling in love with the profession while at teacher training college.
After teaching at various schools including in remote villages, it was at Swedru School of Business Senior High, Agona Swedru, Central Ghana, where he spent 12 years of his teaching career, that he faced one of his greatest challenges. Students skipping class, particularly maths, was proving an impediment for them going on to gain admission to tertiary institutions, and local poverty, teenage pregnancy and the temptation to be lured into crime were additional obstacles they faced.
Evans set up a ‘Maths Clinic’ for free to help students who had a phobia of learning the subject, and counselled students who had clashed with school rules and regulations, helping them build their confidence and self-esteem while reducing conflict in the school community. Held at weekends, ‘Maths Clinic’ targeted those average and below-average achieving students most in need of extra help.
Initiatives like this, where student difficulties were diagnosed and lasting solutions found, alongside the creative use of technology including video lessons to stimulate interest in the subject, resulted in his students ultimately being able to learn mathematics with ease, excitement and joy. This change in student perception and participation led to a marked reduction in truancy, an improvement in test results, and his high school became one of 16 in Ghana to participate in an international STEM challenge with overseas schools.
Evans believes interventions of this kind, as well as boosting their self-esteem and sense of self-worth, also helped his students to become critical thinkers, problem solvers, and responsible adults able to make meaningful choices in life.
Following awards and acclaim at home, in 2015 Evans was one of 64 teachers from 13 countries chosen to attend training at the International Leaders in Educational Programs (ILEP) at Clemson University, South Carolina, USA.
Through this ILEP program, online professional development courses and other professional development workshops he gained the skills to organize a series of seminars and training workshops for teachers across the country. Having developed PowerPoint slides for all topics in the maths syllabus in a form of lesson notes for teachers in Ghana, he uses his personal laptop, projector, LCD TV, videos, pictures and online lessons in the learning and teaching of mathematics, making it more practical, interesting and fun. He has now trained 2,800 teachers in Ghana’s Basic and Senior High Schools.
Achimota Senior High, where Evans has been teaching for just a few months, has its own problems and restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meeting up with students after school to tackle the knowledge gap in the way he previously did has not been possible, so he has adapted his methods to online delivery of seminars and a series of lessons through ‘Maths Clinic’ classes incorporating his self-filmed video lectures and innovations such as software animated graphs and diagrams that engage and entertain the imagination.
Uploading his lessons to his YouTube channel means ‘Maths Clinic’ has now gone global.
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