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Forest Whitaker Congratulates US Teacher Leah Juelke | Top 10 Finalist Global Teacher Prize 2020

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Academy award winning actor and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation Forest Whitaker congratulates US teacher Leah Juelke as a top ten finalist for The Global Teacher Prize 2020.

Leah Juelke, who teaches English at Fargo South High School, North Dakota, was shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2020, after being selected from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.
Leah Juelke started on the road to becoming a teacher thanks to her childhood friendship with a family of refugees from Sudan. Seeing their struggles fueled her passion for helping others, and she set out to find ways to make a difference, teaching at a school where most of her students are refugees from war-torn countries with interrupted formal education,traumas and little to no English fluency. Almost all live well below the poverty line, and 40 per cent of the school’s population is considered low-income. Learning disabilities can go undiagnosed because of low language ability and the age of the students.

One of Leah’s biggest successes has been her Journey to America project, where refugee students document their travels from dangerous places, teaching the community about diversity, resulting in a vehicle for building relationships and empowering students to advocate for themselves. The project became a published book of refugee and immigrant stories and poems, featuring 31 of her Fargo South students from 21 different countries. Her classes have now published six different volumes of the book over the last six years. Students now perform public readings of their stories and poems at local universities, spreading awareness of important global issues to young American audiences, contributing to a culture of understanding, empathy and tolerance.

This all led to three of her students testifying at the state capitol to help overturn a proposal to ban refugees in North Dakota. Leah was honored at the White House as 2018 North Dakota Teacher of the Year.

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