A Jordanian educator from Karak, Southern of Jordan persevered in her career until she earned global recognition being a finalist in the Global Teacher Prize 2016, the award is granted by the Varkey Foundation, the international prize is an annual $1 million given to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, according to the award’s website. Nisreen Buqaeen planted knowledge and education and reaped global excellence in her own right, a mathematics high-school teacher, who is chosen by AWM as an inspirational woman in this issue,
How did your passion for teaching come about, and why did you choose mathematics in particular?
I grew up in a family of educational excellence, whom sanctify educational work. With every new sun rise we proceed to our schools with loving hearts and stimulated minds. I chose mathematics as specialization as it is considered one of the harder subjects for students, and one that needs expertise in teaching it something I always sought to know. When I was a student many questions haunted me: why do we only teach mathematics only on the blackboard? And how do we benefit from it? Why don’t we apply it in our lives? This was the reason behind my passion to study it well; to know how to teach it to students; for I am sure that many people like me will have the same questions in mind.
In 2009 you were awarded as most outstanding teacher of the year, you were also promoted as an expert teacher, the highest of ranks for teachers, tell us about your career, and how you got these awards and qualified for the Global Teacher Award?
My career began in 2000, a Jordanian teacher and later an educational expert, I worked in different schools, most recently the secondary Girls School in Karak where I personally graduated from as a student, I hold a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and higher diploma in information and communications technology, and master’s in management education and supervision.
I believe that a teacher has a more open mind than others, and needs that knowledge that caters for human nature specifically for the art of teaching, which carries on its shoulders the caring of students whom are in the stages of formation and change and to guide them to achieve a better life. This combined faith with full sanctity of Education is what drew my path and accompanied my career and was the basis of my success and segregationist.
I was awarded most outstanding teacher in 2009, and had the privilege of this honor by Her Majesty Queen Rania – May God bless Her, and with it the feeling of great responsibility grew within me. With Her Majesty’s determination and Her ability for development and change in the educational sector; I derived my power to work, be creative and challenge the limited resources in our schools.
I polished up on my academic skills and through training in Queen Rania Academy for coaching of teachers, and in collaboration with Columbia University (Mathematics networks) I got the International Computer Driving License, and passed the stages of the program (Intel) for future teaching.
I am convinced “that the teacher does not belong to himself, but to his students, to his colleagues, to his school, to his community,” this led me to launch several initiatives and educational projects. Even to teach my students the importance and beauty of giving and volunteer work, they were my partners and I contributed positively in building their personalities.
And as an ambassador to the Association of Queen Rania for Excellence in Education Award supports and guides us continuously to strive, I earned a scholarship to study Masters of Science in Education from Muta University. Through my experience, which I am proud of with the Association of Queen Rania for Excellence in Education Award, I perfected my skills especially in the area of documentation, and to promote teamwork by my colleagues in the Award Association which binds us together professionally and have a moral obligation to work together and to exchange experiences and creativity. We were directed by the Association Award regarding the presence of the international awards for those who wish to participate; I had the desire and achievements in the field of education accompanied by creativity and innovation at various levels (students, colleagues, community …) that qualify me for the global competition, so I was nominated. I was then selected by the Varkey Foundation from among more than 8,000 applications and nominations for the elite teachers from around the world of more than 148 countries; I’m the only Jordanian teacher that has reached this stage after having presented my achievements and certificates.
How significant are awards for teachers? And does it play a role in motivating the teacher to do his work to the best of his ability?
The award is not the motivator for the teacher to do his job to the best of his abilities, in fact the opposite is true, when a teacher does his best in his job he will reach the award, but the significance of the award constitutes as a passport to the teacher, which through it he seeks to deliver his message to the largest possible number of colleagues as he becomes a role model for others to follow suite.
It also opens up new horizons and gives more opportunities that are limited on teachers in the public sector.
How do you see the state of education and teachers today in the Arab world? In your opinion what is the way for the development of education to keep pace with global progress?
Education in the Arab world is usually focused on the cognitive aspects, forgetting important aspects related to emotional and behavioral sides of the students (self-control, communication, time management, crises, anger …) these are the foundation of character building, another obstacle we face is the professional stereotypes. Education is preparation for life and we are required to prepare our children to compete, and in careers that are currently nonexistent, we prepare them for life, and there is no life without work.
What is required from the Arab educational system in general, and Arab teachers in particular, is the transition from limited focus on the cognitive component and just filling minds with information, and moving on to emotional and behavioral components to build character and properly prepare students for life, and to provide careers with their pursuit in a befitting way taking in consideration the years spent studying.
What is the role of a teacher to empower students and encourage them to be creative and to reject negative thoughts that usually kill any aspirations especially for girls?
If the Arab girl managed to recognize and accept diversity, and employ it in her life then she will be able to free herself from any limitations that might kill her dreams. She has to be productive, creative, and here comes the role of the teacher; as the responsibility falls on the teacher to help in building character in all its aspects; behavioral, intellectual, orientations, and self-confidence and to learn to reject all that is negative in an ethical framework that respects the community and religious components. And being a role model to them, would give them a live example that they trust.
What are some of your future personal goals, and for the nation?
My future aspiration is to plant a realistic enabled seed for education dialogue. To make learning active, interactive and measurable, to make this reality not just in theories, facts not just notions on paper, then the teacher will be able to help build the student’s character which in turn becomes someone productive, strong and effective change of all that is negative, a personality filled with love and has a capacity for building.
My aspiration for the Arab world is that I hope to contribute to the adoption of the Arab perception of freedom for the educator, described by the martyr Ghassan Kanafani: “I am talking about the freedom that gains nothing in return … the freedom which itself is the gain.”
By the presence of the Association of Arab teachers bringing them together with meetings of dialogue and exchange of experiences, and activating platforms for educational and e-learning.
For Original Arabic interview