NDSU alumna Leah Juelke is one of 50 finalists for the $1 million Global Teacher Prize 2020. The award, sponsored by the Varkey Foundation is presented annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession.
“I'm humbled and honored to be named a Varkey Fellow Ambassador and one of the top 50 teachers in the world,” Juelke said, noting she is one of five Americans on the list.
She and other finalists will participate in the Global Education and Skills Forum in London during October, when the selection is scheduled to be announced.
Juelke is a language arts instructor at Fargo South High school, where many of her students are refugees and immigrants.
She organized the “Journey to America” project. After hearing Rwandan genocide survivor Daniel Trust, the students wrote about their own journeys from dangerous places to North Dakota. The project became a published book of refugee stories featuring Fargo South High School students from many different countries. Her classes have now published six different volumes of the book. In addition, Juelke partnered with Green Card Voices to feature her students in the 2017 book, “Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from Fargo South High.” This book featured 31 students from 21 different countries.
She also is working in conjunction with journalist and teacher Jessica Lander on a new book, titled “We Are America.”
In addition, she plans a trip with other Varkey Ambassadors to Kenya in June, when she’ll participate in the “Building a Better Tomorrow Conference” and she’ll tour schools to learn about that country’s education system.
Juelke’s students annually come to the NDSU campus to publicly present their stories and poems.
Juelke earned her bachelor’s degree in English education in 2006 and her master’s degree in education in 2012, both from NDSU.
She said her experience on campus was an inspiration for her work.
“My experience as a graduate assistant in the International Office at NDSU fueled my passion for international travel and global education,” she said. “I strive to connect my students with classrooms around the world and make learning interactive and relevant. It is important that I show empathy and provide opportunities for engagement, so that my students feel empowered to make a change.”
If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, Juelke plans to start a foundation that awards scholarships to New American students in North Dakota who want to become teachers.
Juelke was the 2018 North Dakota Teacher of the Year and was nominated that year for National Teacher of the Year. In 2019, she received the Horizon Award from the NDSU Foundation.
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