10 Teachers Who Are Changing the World Today

Education forms one of the most necessary cornerstones of human societies. Despite this, even the most seemingly clockwork systems on the planet still require tweaks to ensure a quality product in a safe setting. Without the efforts of activist-educators hailing from numerous backgrounds and working in diverse nations with vastly different needs and resources, the industry’s progress would stall. From there, civilization itself would manage to follow suit. The following voices from the teaching world are by no means the only ones worth listening to when it comes to progressing the cause, obviously. But they still have some amazing things to offer and say with the interest of bettering both their students and the world they call home.

  1. Jose Vilson

    This heavily lauded, impressively awarded middle school math teacher, speaker, data analyst, coach, and all-around Renaissance Guy spends just as much time serving as an activist and advocate for education reform as he does in the classroom itself. As the co-author of Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Public Schools…Now and in the Future, President of the Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University, and member of the Board of Directors for Teaching Quality, Jose Vilson uses these honorable positions to promote healthier, more sustainable curricula and strategies. Much of his work focuses on development, as well-trained teachers in all schools mean well-trained students and more equitable opportunities for all.

  2. Benedicto Kondowe

    Malawi’s public education system charges for its services, and considering its status as one of the world’s most impoverished nations (according to The Guardian, “over 40% of the population lives on less than $1 a day” ), that means nearly 250,000 children never complete their schooling. Benedicto Kondowe serves as the head of The Civil Society Coalition for Quality Basic Education, an NGO that wants to jettison these fees and bring equal, viable lessons to a country ravaged by poverty and violence. CSCQBE fights president Bingu wa Mutharika and the Ministry of Education’s policies preventing Malawi from achieving its UN Millennial goals, and, more importantly, espouses how proper schooling both nurtures the economy and innovations and prevents horrific acts of violence (sexual and nonsexual) and child abuse.

  3. Hala Talaat

    Co-founder of the Egyptian Teachers’ Federation Hala Talaat helped organize the colossal September 2011 educators strike demanding all-around improvements to a creaking system. By April 2012, she ballooned the fight to international levels when she reached out to the UK-based National Union of Teachers and detailed the whos, whats, whys, hows, and wheres behind the movement. Egyptian educators still require safer campuses and competitive salaries despite last year’s historical revolution. They have teamed up with other labor unions and worker’s groups to promote social and economic justice with the hopes of greatly improving the nation’s future.

  4. Chuck Middleton and Katherine Ragsdale

    Chuck Middleton of Roosevelt University and Katherine Ragsdale of Episcopal Divinity School have served as co-chairs of LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education since 2011. Like the organization’s name gives away, its main thrust involves providing an equal educational voice for members of the LGBTQ community working in colleges and universities across the United States. Through panels, conferences, publications, and more, the members and officers ensure that issues unique to their experiences receive proper attention and addressing. Creating safe spaces higher up on campus means a trickle-down effect for LGBTQ students who want to know they may attend class without fearing marginalization, harassment, and even violence.

  5. Hugo Schwyzer

    One of the most controversial higher educators working in America today, Pasadena City College’s outspoken gender studies professor, speaker, and writer wants to bust up myths about men, women, sexuality, and society alike. Many (though not all “” “controversial,” remember?) feminist scholars and activists consider him one of their most vocal male allies in the fight for equality and safety. The most notable selections in Hugo Schwyzer’s vast oeuvre express how institutionalized misogyny begets such swept-under-the-rug social ills as rape and sexual assault, so his world-changing vision certainly transcends the education sector.

  6. Kiran Bir Sethi

    Riverside School founder and director Kiran Bir Sethi started life as a designer, but (especially) after winning the 2008 Ashoka Fellow for the aProCh project encouraging safe urban spaces for children, the world knows her more as an educator than anything else. Her Ahmedabad, India-based organization heavily promotes experimental teaching models and analyzes their efficacy in a classroom setting. Its primary concern, however, revolves more around safe and healthy practices that refrain from squelching creativity, innovation, and understanding. For more than a decade now, Riverside School stands as a fantastic resource for pedagogic insight, reaching out to teachers hungry for something new.

  7. Paul Chuk

    It wasn’t until age 60 when Paul Chuk realized how much he harbored a passion for education, and ever since then he has worked tirelessly toward improving the performance of neglected Cambodian schools. Currently, he holds a position as Cambodia Program Director for Sustainable Schools International, pulling triple time as a coach for other educators and an English teacher. Thanks to his efforts (in conjunction with the nonprofit, of course), underperforming institutions beneath his guidance eventually blossomed into some of the best in the region “” if not nation! Communication, Chuk touts, determines whether or not a school succeeds or sucks. Between administrators and teachers as well as teachers and students, clearly outlining expectations and goals makes all the difference in a quality classroom environment.

  8. Elona Hartjes

    Award-winning Teachers at Risk blogger and Teacher of Distinction winner Elona Hartjes wants to see the same health and safety strategies applied to students appropriated to their educators as well. In her impressive career as a special education teacher, she learned all the ins and outs of maintaining a comfortable classroom space and openly shares these valuable lessons and their broader implications. Despite her blog’s name, however, Hartjes’ activism and research still ensures student problems such as bullying, abuse, etc. receive proper attention. She simply believes that “troubled teachers” deserve the same amount of support and outreach as the “troubled teens” with whom she has also worked.

  9. Ken Robinson

    Sir Ken Robinson’s visibility and prolificacy make him one of the most well-known names in education reform. Most notably “” though not exclusively “” his modus operandi embraces pedagogic approaches nursing creativity and innovation in upcoming generations, as he believes today’s most common methods actively discourage both. Despite not currently working as a teacher, the activist congealed his findings while directing the UK’s Arts in Schools Project and serving as a professor at University of Warwick, where he also chaired the Departments of Arts Education, Undergraduate Education, Research Development, and more.

  10. Rebecca Lynn Mieliwocki

    America’s 2012 Teacher of the Year educates 7th-grade English students at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, California. Heavily decorated with such honors as California League of Middle Schools Educator of the Year, Rebecca Lynn Mieliwocki’s “extracurriculars” include working as an expert teacher on panels regarding education reform and drawing up syllabi that engage and inspire rather than chugging away on rote techniques. Though relatively greenhorn with “only” 9 years of experience, the awarding committee possesses high hopes that she will continue encouraging her peers to forge more long-lasting lessons.

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