|27 Sep 2023
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize
Annie Ohana, teaches social justice, law, social sciences, humanities and French, is an anti-oppression and equity curriculum specialist, based at LA Matheson Secondary School, Surrey, British Columbia.
A life fighting for justice as an educator, community organizer, and justice advocate, has seen Annie Ohana’s work centre around liberator pedagogy and making space for long marginalized communities to achieve transformation. As “a White Passing Sephardic Arabic Jew, a woman from a Moroccan family who immigrated many times over” Annie experienced racism in the education system from a young age, which used children rather than empowered them, so vowed when entering the teaching profession to deliver the opposite, making sure students were seen, heard, and could be leaders of innovation and solutions. Having spent her entire career teaching in inner city environments and within marginalized Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color (BIPOC) groups, she believes education for teachers like her is not just a part of life, it is a mechanism of elevation and change.
Campaigning on Palestinian rights, anti-racism, reproductive justice, indigenous sovereignty, and elevating grassroots histories out of white supremacist colonial systems, her life as a teacher has always been about bringing the real world into the classroom and the lived experience of her BIPOC students into spaces often denied, via a path of anti-oppression and liberation. Leading change in the context of her ‘no walls’ classroom and the wider community, Annie Ohana takes her students out into the front lines of field work study. Results include an increase in students taking multiple social sciences education courses, an increase in graduation rates for indigenous students, her school now established as a social justice hub in the province and district, along with students having a voice when it comes to policy and curriculum at local and provincial level.
She founded and directs Mustang Justice, an anti-oppression and justice oriented youth service leadership group. Using interdisciplinary learning, she introduces Aboriginal content into her classroom using the medicine wheel or ask her students how science and math can bring out the creative power of language. She works with businesses and community groups to produce social justice-based events with her students, developed a mentorship program with feeder schools on identity, leadership, positive communication and respect, and worked with math professors at Simon Fraser University to develop an Aboriginal math workshop for teachers across Surrey to learn how to infuse Aboriginal content in authentic ways, and has developed internationally used curriculum around the Israel-Palestine Conflict, anti-poverty, and cultures of peace.
This level of student and community engagement has seen the students thriving and Annie herself winning a host of awards including 2023 Humanitarian of the Year from the DMS Society and BCTF Top Social Justice Award Bob Rosen Social justice Award (for lifetime accomplishment in social justice), 2022 Hands Against Racism Award Winner, 2019 BC Anti Racism and Multiculturalism Award, 2019 Surrey Teacher of the Year, 2017 Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence and 2015 Shakti Awards for Academic Excellence.