|27 Sep 2023|
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize|
Shafina has suffered major setbacks on her way to becoming a great teacher. A massive car accident in her second-to-last year of university left her with the loss of her father and multiple fractures of the spine, right femur and pelvis. Shafina was told she might never walk again and that she would remain in hospital for many months. Acquiring a rod in her leg, two plates in her spine and a back brace, she had to start learning how to live all over again.
Eight years later Shafina had a psychology degree and two young children, but was still having surgical operations. As she had been awarded a distinction in her undergraduate project, she was invited to teach a course at the university. She walked into her first classroom with two crutches, and received a standing ovation. Quickly falling in love with teaching, Shafina also began to teach psychology at a local Sixth Form college, and due to excellent feedback, she was invited to apply for teacher training via Schools Direct at UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society – a salaried training position. Today, Shafina teaches at an inner London school in Newham, where students have high levels of deprivation (housing, food, crime, and social care) as well as various mental health and neurodiversity challenges. Many suffer anxiety due to the demanding curriculum and external factors that do not enable them to achieve.
Shafina’s chief innovation in teaching has been through her experimentation with LEGO. This began as a way to engage an active, fidgety, intelligent Year 7 science class: however, Shafina was amazed at how much learning was boosted. With the right approach and knowledge, LEGO can be used to aid keyword recall, recreate studies in psychology, understand methodology, make links between topics, and support game-based learning. As a result, Shafina was offered a funded PhD to study this kind of learning at Imperial College, and was also sent to Denmark to train as a LEGO education trainer in robotics and STEM learning. This led to her developing the curriculum at her school, using LEGO as a delivery tool across departments. Over the last five years, this free programme has reached over 8000 people and over 4000 children directly through the workshops. Shafina has supported students in building design engineering abilities through LEGO to think about solutions to real world problems and challenges such as climate change and biodiversity. Shafina's students, aged 16 to 18, run these sessions for children and young children at the same time, which is why it has been such a success.
To share her work, Shafina has travelled globally and spoken at various universities and with the UK Department for Education. Her school has also hosted many international delegations to see first-hand how LEGO is used in the curriculum. Shafina’s work has been covered by Intel, and Sky News. If she wins the Global Teacher Prize, Shafina will use the prize funds to take the programme global, supporting and training schools with hands-on pedagogy. She would also create her own kits that have more pieces and choices for various different learners, which would help integrate neurodiversity into mainstream classrooms and build a holistic, inclusive approach. Shafina would also like to continue her research to post-doctoral level, and develop a charity where she can help disadvantaged communities to become skilled in STEM.