The Impact of TFFT’s Teacher of Distinction Award

This weekend is our annual Teacher of Distinction Award (TDA) ceremony and in honor of World Teachers’ Day, we would like to highlight our allegiance to teacher education and illustrate the ways in which our belief in the importance of teachers underpins our Teacher of Distinction Award. TFFT’s Whole Child approach includes taking stock in the teachers that make learning possible for our scholars. The TFFT Teacher of Distinction Award is part of our commitment to improve and transform the conditions within the wider learning environment.

One of the greatest challenges Tanzanian teachers face is lack of encouragement and incentives to grow and hone their craft. Teachers have few incentives to have a strong sense of vocation that encourages them to plan and deliver thoughtful, engaging lessons; see themselves as a force for good or as role models for students. They do not support those who are struggling.

The Foundation For Tomorrow created the TDA to honor and award excellent educators. The general objective of the TDA is to increase teachers’ motivation, their self belief and professional identity; influence school management team to become aware of good practice and expect it from other teachers and ultimately students to have better learning experience.

The upshot-or outcomes- from the establishment of the Teacher of Distinction Award have been many and varied. Recognizing the quality of instruction increases a teacher’s motivation, boost teachers’ self-belief, and personal identity. The award has a wider impact on the educational environment and has led to increased efforts to lobby education officers to support TFFTs efforts to improve educational practice in the schools.

The Foundation For Tomorrow believes in the centrality of the teachers’ role in improving student outcomes. We believe that by investing in the continuous development of teachers we are helping to improve the educational landscape in Tanzania. The idea for the TDA came as the Teachers Training Program (then headed by Melissa Queyquep) searched for ways to improve teachers’ self esteem and professional identity as a means to promote inspirational, transformational teaching. The profession of teaching has lost value and teachers have lost respect over time in Tanzania. Teachers often do not receive the necessary training, resources, or support. TFFT knows that there are good teachers are out there—we only have to shine the spotlight on them. Our TDA incentivizes teachers through recognition and reward, motivates them to stay in the profession, and encourages them to continue doing the best job they can. Further, the award motivating other teachers to follow leading teachers’ examples. In searching for the individuals to recognize with this Award, The Foundation For Tomorrow focused on candidates with an ability to stimulate critical and analytical thinking among students, an ability to create an engaging and rewarding learning experience, and innovations and creativity in teaching methods and curriculum development; and commitment to helping students who need learning support.

The TFFT Teachers Training Program piloted the TDA in some of its partner schools. Three schools participated: SEGA Girls Secondary School, Star High School, and Usa River Academy (primary and secondary sections). During this pilot, the stages in selecting the awardees were:

1. Calling for nominations from teachers and students (application forms were made available to teachers through the school headmaster/headmistress)
2. Shortlisting of candidates
3. Deliberation on the merits of the shortlisted candidates in consultation with the school leadership teams

The award was administered during the schools’ graduation day to ensure that the community, all students, and all teachers witness the recognition of these teachers. In 2015 the TDA expanded to include all primary and secondary schools in Meru District and the Arusha City Council in 2016. Later in 2017, the two districts started to take their own initiatives of recognizing the outstanding teachers in school as a result of the influence of the TDA run by TFFT. Each year, TFFT supports the government in recognizing the best performing teachers and schools.

Quality teachers are crucial to overcome some of the persistent barriers to the equal access of education across the globe. TFFT believes that teacher quality is one of the greatest determinants of student learning and achievement, both inside and outside of the classroom. The Teacher of Distinction Award is one-of-a-kind in Tanzania and is part and parcel of the improvement of teacher education in Tanzania.