Waialua robotics teacher in the running for million-dollar prize


A teacher at Waialua High and Intermediate School is in the running to win $1 million.

Glenn Lee is one of 10 finalists for the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize.

Being a finalist means Lee is considered one of the best teachers in the world.

He is the only finalist from the United States, selected from more than 30,000 nominations and applications from 173 countries.

According to the foundation:

“Glenn Lee was an electrical engineer who 24 years ago had a career change to fulfil his desire to become a STEM teacher who could offer students real-world applications of what they learned. His pioneering efforts built a robotics movement that ignited a state-wide passion for STEM subjects in Hawaii, from launching the first robotics program in 1999 in a rural community, which has now grown to encompass over 750 such programs from grades K-12.

“Over the last decade, 87% of his students have met proficiency in reading and math on the Hawaii State Assessment, and 71% have maintained a 3.0 GPA or higher. He recently worked with Hawaii State Legislature to introduce a bill to create a STEM Innovation Centre.”

“Everything for kids is about being interesting, relevant. We provide meaningful projects for them, especially in a community where more than half of our students don’t even own a computer. Our kids are technology starved,” Lee said. “We used to ask for donations. We did car washes, book fairs. I wrote personal grants. I asked foundations for support. Through all those efforts, we’ve been able to raise over $200,000 per year. If I don’t raise $200,000, we don’t break even.”

“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 Hawaii and throughout the world every day,” said Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize.

All 10 finalists will be invited to Dubai for the award ceremony at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) on March 18.

The winner will be announced live on stage in a red carpet gala event.

Click here for more information.

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