Every day is different: Selvakumaran

By Pujanee Galappaththi

Sri Lankan-born Australian teacher Yasodai Selvakumaran was shortlisted as a finalist for the $ 1 million Global Teacher Prize. The honourable list of finalists was announced by none other than Australian actor Hugh Jackman.

More than 10,000 teachers from around the world were nominated, but Selvakumaran was the only Australian to make the top 10.
The winner will take home $ 1 million in prize money to use towards an innovative education project of their choice.

Born in Sri Lanka, Selvakumaran’s Tamil family moved to Australia when she was 10-months-old and quickly settled in the western New South Whales town of Hay.

Rooty Hill High Head Teacher of Humanities Thelma Vuki said it was her ability to connect with students from all backgrounds that made Selvakumaran unique.

We sat down with Yasodai for a quick chat on her experiences and thoughts on this honour. Here’s what we found out.

It’s a great honour to be shortlisted for such a prestigious prize. Tell us about your Global Teacher Prize experience.

It has been amazing so far. Even the process of applying was an amazing, reflective experience. I highly recommend any teacher having a go. Teachers can keep an eye out for when the applications open in 2019 by googling Global Teacher Prize and The Varkey Foundation.

The announcement of the top 50 in December was a massive honour as we joined the Varkey Teacher Ambassador programme. It was very exciting to hear Hugh Jackman make the announcement as an Australian, and especially as he is one of my favourite actors and singers.

I’m proud and privileged to be in a group of teacher ambassadors that brings a spotlight on the amazing work that teachers everywhere in the world do every day. With this, I believe comes the responsibility to further advocate for education and use our networks as best we can to create an impact for education beyond our own school communities.

Do you think teaching is the noblest of professions?

Yes. Teaching is noble as it often involves giving so much of oneself to others. People often also say that it is noble as it’s the profession that creates all of the other professions!

I believe it’s about care and commitment for our students and their successes. Often, teachers are selfless in serving their communities. They wear many “hats” such as parents, counsellors, or mentors.

Most teachers I know go above and beyond what’s needed at times their students or school communities need them most.

What is the biggest challenge you face in terms of advocating on the importance of education?

Time to collaborate with other teachers in the profession across sectors and stakeholders. We need to continually develop and share teacher expertise in order to what’s best for our students.

What is your favourite thing about being a teacher?

Learning with students and working with teachers to lead. It is work that is deeply intellectual and creative and enables us to have fun and spark joy in learning, although, it can be challenging.

Every day is different.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the students of the world?

Be open to new opportunities and make the most of those in front of you.

Also, dare to dream and think about what else might come your way if you push yourself outside your comfort zone.