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Hallam graduate competes for $1million global teacher prize

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A Sheffield Hallam University teaching graduate will compete for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize this weekend - with a $1million prize up for grabs.

Koen Timmers graduated with a Masters in Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change from Sheffield Hallam in 2014.

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. Koen and the other finalists have been selected from over 30,000 nominations and applications from 173 countries around the world.

Koen, now a lecturer and computer science teacher in his native Belgium, created Project Kakuma, an initiative allowing over 150 global educators to teach African refugees via Skype.

The project began when he started to teach refugee students via Skype, finding sponsors to host the calls and even sending his own equipment, including laptops, solar panels and internet infrastructure to the refugee camps.

He also founded the largest educational website in Belgium,, which offers more than 60 digital courses, supporting 20,000 online students – many of whom are teachers themselves.

Over the last year Koen has launched student projects in 250 schools across 69 countries focused on UN Sustainable Development Goals, with his Climate Action project getting high profile support from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Greenpeace, UNESCO, Microsoft, National Geographic and Discovery Channel among others.

Koen was named a top 10 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize 2018 in an announcement by Bill Gates, in which the philanthropist and tech entrepreneur also paid a powerful tribute to the work of teachers around the world. The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday 18 March 2018.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize, said:“I want to congratulate Koen Timmers for being selected as a top ten finalist from such a huge number of talented and dedicated teachers.

"I hope his story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over Belgium and throughout the world every day."

Koen Timmers

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Professor Sam Twiselton, Director of Sheffield Hallam's Sheffield Institute of Education, will also be in attendance at the Global Education and Skills Forum.

Professor Twiselton will use the opportunity to promote the University's government-backed social mobility partnership, South Yorkshire Futures, which focuses on improving educational attainment andraising aspiration – particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Professor Twiselton said: "At Sheffield Hallam we believe that a good education provided by passionate and skilled teachers is vital to giving young people the best start in life.

"South Yorkshire Futures addresses the educational attainment and wellbeing of learners, whilst also developing a dedicated and talented workforce to support them. These values certainly chime with those of the Varkey Foundation and Global Teaching Prize and I look forward to discussing the programme with fellow educationalists in Dubai.

"I'm also thrilled to see a Sheffield Hallam alumnus make the final of the Global Teaching Prize. Koen's projects, in a very short amount of time, have already made a huge impact across the world. He is a credit to himself and the teaching profession - and we are very proud that he is one of our alumni."

Further information about the top 10 finalists is available here:

To join the conversation online follow #TeachersMatter on: and

For press information: Please contact Martin Webb in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2621 or email