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Pope, Biden, Prince William, Bill Clinton send congratulations

Palestinian wins million-dollar Teacher of the Year prize

Bethlehem native Hanan al-Hroub praised for developing a method to bolster dialogue among children exposed to violence

Palestinian primary school teacher Hanan al-Hroub speaks after she won the second annual Global Teacher Prize, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
Palestinian primary school teacher Hanan al-Hroub speaks after she won the second annual Global Teacher Prize, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)

A Palestinian teacher from Bethlehem was announced as the winner on Sunday of a $1,000,000 prize for the Global Teacher of the Year award Sunday.

Hanan al-Hroub, who grew up in the Deheishe refugee camp near Bethlehem, was announced by Pope Francis as the winner of the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize, during a ceremony in Dubai.

She was chosen for her work in developing a method to educate students exposed to violence to embrace dialogue and non-violent methods.

According to the website of the Global Teacher Prize, al-Hroub “embraces the slogan ‘No to violence’ and uses a specialist approach she developed herself, detailed in her book, ‘We Play and Learn.’

“Her approach has led to a decline in violent behavior in schools where this is usually a frequent occurrence; she has inspired her colleagues to review the way they teach, their classroom management strategies and the sanctions they use,” the statement continued.

“I feel amazing and I still can’t believe that the pope said my name,” al-Hroub told The Associated Press. “For an Arab, Palestinian teacher to talk to the world today and to reach the highest peak in teaching could be an example for teachers around the world.”

She said she will use the million-dollar prize money to create scholarships for students who want to go into teaching.

As al-Hroub accepted her award, Palestinians in the audience waved their country’s flag and some chanted, fists pumping in the air, “With our souls, our blood, we sacrifice for you, Palestine.”

In her acceptance speech, she reiterated her mantra of “No to violence” and stressed the importance of dialogue.

“The Palestinian teacher can talk to the world now. Hand in hand we can effect change and provide a safe education to provide peace,” she told the AP.

Her win came as Palestinian teachers agreed to temporarily call off a month-long strike that had seen large protests against the rule of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The West Bank and Israel have also been riven by a five-month-long round of violence that has seen hundreds of Palestinian attacks against Israelis and clashes between troops and Palestinian protesters that some have seen as the start of a new intifada, or uprising.

During her acceptance speech, al-Hroub — who developed the method after her children saw her husband being shot by Israeli troops during the Second Intifada — spoke about the influence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on her life.

“Every day we see the suffering in the eyes of our students and teachers caused by the Israeli occupation’s military checkpoints,” al-Hroub said, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

Pope Francis congratulated al-Hroub in a video message. “I would like to congratulate the teacher Hanan al-Hroub for winning this prestigious prize due to the importance that she gave to the role of play in a child’s education,” he said in a video statement.

Bill Clinton, Prince William and US Vice President Joe Biden also extended their congratulations to the winner via video messages.

Pictures from central Ramallah showed that a large crowd gathered to watch the Palestinian teacher’s acceptance speech on a large screen.

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