A professional athlete-turned-teacher has been named one of the world’s top 50 educators in a $1 million competition dubbed the ‘Nobel Prize of teaching.’
Christian Williams, a 28-year-old Ashburton teacher, is one of only two educators in Australia to be picked from 8,000 applicants from 148 countries for the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize, a contest backed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Born with a genetic heart disease and diagnosed with cardiomyopathy when he captained Australia’s junior lacrosse team, Christian often came close to death by pushing his body to the limit. When doctors advised he quit sport, the athletically-blessed Christian just adopted a new sport he thought his heart could handle.
He ‘google-stalked’ the world’s best, learning from them the sports of hammer throw, then luge. While trying to qualify for archery for London’s Olympics, doctors insisted he stop or die.
Knowing he would one day trade the sporting field for a classroom, Christian had combined his 10 years as an athlete with a teaching degree from Victoria University. He also visited children in schools and hospitals all over the world, especially those with similar heart conditions, willing them to follow their own dreams.
Christian credits VU for much of his teaching success since it accommodated his busy training schedule when he was a professional athlete, and also supported him when he was ill. He did the final year of his Bachelor of Education from a hospital bed.
Christian began teaching full-time at St Michael’s Primary School in 2012, and was immediately recognised as an emerging leader. In 2015, he was named Victoria/Tasmania Teacher of the Year, as well as a Young Australian of the Year finalist.
“I give my students everything I have. I have always felt I need to leave a mark on the world.”
Principal Marisa Matthys says Christian’s passion to bring out the best in his students is contagious. His innovative classroom activities have included running a real café as a social enterprise.
Christian also helps develop state education policy in his expert areas of IT and mathematics.
St Michael’s school parents nominated Christian for the prestigious Global Teacher Prize, which carries with it a US$1 million top prize for the winner, given over a 10-year-period. The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on 13 March.
Christian will collaborate with the other top 50 teachers in the world to improve global education systems and attend the award ceremony along with Heads of State in Dubai this March.