NEWFOUNDLAND -- A Wayne County teacher, one of the top ten in the world, arrived home this week after the Global Teacher Award ceremony in Dubai.
Mike Soskil may not have taken home the top prize, but he feels like a winner and his students at Wallenpaupack South Elementary School feel the same. They welcomed him home with a giant banner.
“I got a little teary-eyed this morning when I walked in to see the banner that my students had made and my colleagues had gotten a 'Congratulations' cake that they put in the faculty room,” said Soskil.
Soskil is a science teacher at the elementary school and has helped his students interact with people in more than 70 countries, including raising money for water filters for those in a slum in Nairobi.
Soskil was a finalist, in the top ten for the prestigious Global Teacher Prize given by the Varkey Foundation. It's similar to the Nobel Prize for teachers and the award ceremony was held in Dubai on March 13.
"It was a very surreal experience, incredible in so many different ways. You know, Dubai the city is unlike anything I've ever been in. Everything there is the most expensive, the biggest thing in the world, but the most incredible aspect for me was getting to spend time with some of the most amazing teachers in the world."
The top prize was given to a teacher from the West Bank who works with refugees. She has vowed to use the million dollars in prize money to establish scholarships for students in need.
"Immediately from me without planning it or, I broke out into the biggest smile and I think it's because I got to know Hanan (Al Hroub) for a couple days and I got to know just the amazing person she is and the fantastic things she's doing for her country and education in her country and her students and she is the perfect representative for the teaching profession now. She is exactly what we need and I couldn't be happier for her."
Soskil was among the top 50 teachers in the world last year. He says this experience has been an amazing one, to rub elbows with celebrities at the award ceremony. The Pope, himself, announced the winner.
More than anything, Soskil says he loved meeting with and talking about education with fellow teachers.
"Every one of them just does such great things for kids and you know, you can't help but be inspired by being around that. I see wonderful stories about excellent teachers and the great things they're doing on the front pages of newspapers, instead of some of the negative narratives which are sometimes out there, that's what we need, teachers are changing the world."
Soskil says he will not apply for the Global Teacher Prize again.