Soulaima Gourani


Soulaima Gourani the CEO and co-founder of Happioh, a Silicon Valley-based software company disrupting the virtual and hybrid meeting industry.

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Teachers Prize

Soulaima Gourani was in 2014 appointed to the judging academy of the Varkey GEMS Foundation Global Teacher Prize, a one million dollar award that will be given to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.


The Global Teacher Prize Academy will vote for a winner from a shortlist of ten finalists this November.  It includes other respected leaders in their field such as Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey; Baroness Martha Lane Fox, founder of; the Grammy winning jazz musician and singer Esperanza Spalding; US social activist and educator Geoffrey Canada; Nigerian businessman Jubril Adewale Tinubu, Group CEO, Oando; Strive Masiyiwa, Founder & Executive Chairman, Econet Wireless, South Africa; British philosopher David Rodin; Hadeel Ibrahim, the Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and Jiang Xueqin, Vice-Principal, Tsinghua International School, China.


The Academy is made up of head-teachers, educational experts, commentators, journalists, public officials, tech entrepreneurs, company directors and scientists from the UK, the US, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Austria, Pakistan, Philippines, Netherlands, Thailand, Kenya, South Africa, Japan, Nigeria, Uganda, Singapore, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India and Turkey.


The Global Teacher prize will be won by a teacher who has achieved exceptional results in student learning, and won the respect of the community through activities beyond the classroom. He/she will have provided a role model to other teachers through charity, community work or other cultural achievements.¬† The winner will also have encouraged other teachers to join the profession and contributed to discussions and debates about how to raise teaching standards. He/she will also have opened up access to a quality education for children of all backgrounds, and prepared young people to be ‚Äėglobal citizens‚Äô, comfortable with peers from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.


Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey GEMS Foundation, said:


‚ÄúI‚Äôm extremely pleased that Soulaima Gourani has joined me in drawing attention to the achievements of teachers and the enormous impact they have on all of our lives through joining the Global Teacher Prize academy‚Ä̬†


‚ÄúI believe they must be returned to their rightful position as the most respected profession in society, which is properly rewarded and celebrated‚ÄĚ.¬†


The award, the equivalent of a ‚ÄėNobel Prize‚Äô, will operate under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai.¬† It will underline the importance of the teaching profession and symbolise the fact that teachers throughout the world deserve to be recognised and celebrated.


President Bill Clinton, Honorary Chairman of the Varkey GEMS Foundation, said: 


“Attracting the best people to teaching, developing and supporting their skills, and holding our teachers in high regard — all are critically important to achieve excellence, both in teaching and learning.‚ÄĚ


The prize is open to currently working teachers who teach children that are in compulsory schooling, or are below the age of eighteen. Head-teachers with teaching responsibilities are also eligible to apply.  The prize is open to teachers in every kind of school and, subject to local laws, in every country in the world.  The closing date for applications will be August 31st 2014, and the winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum 2015 in Dubai next spring.


The public can nominate a teacher, or teachers can apply themselves by filling an application form at If teachers are being nominated, the person nominating them will write a brief description online explaining why.  The teacher being nominated will then be sent an email letting them know they’ve been nominated and inviting them to apply for the prize.   Applicants can apply in English, and from May onwards, in Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish and Portuguese.  To join the conversation online follow #TeacherPrize on: and


Teachers who are applying will have to provide references from their current supervisor and up to two additional references.  These can include video testimonials about their work in the classroom and beyond, and can come from pupils, colleagues, head-teachers as well as members of the wider community.


The winner will be paid the prize money in equal instalments over ten years. Without compromising their work in the classroom, the winner will be asked to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey GEMS Foundation, attend public events and speak in public forums about improving the prestige of the teaching profession. A condition of winning the prize is that the winner remains as a classroom teacher for at least five years.


Prior to voting by the Global Teacher Prize Academy, a prize committee will draw up a short-list of ten candidates. This prize committee Includes  Sunny Varkey, Founder, Varkey GEMS Foundation; Vikas Pota, CEO of the Varkey GEMS Foundation; Sir Michael Tomlinson, former Chief Inspector of Schools, UK; Ann Mroz, Editor, Times Education Supplement; and Karen Giles, Headteacher, Barham Primary School, London.


The Global Teacher Prize follows a long-standing commitment to improve the status of teachers by the Varkey GEMS Foundation (VGF).  Last November, the VGF published the Global Teacher Status Index, the first attempt to compare attitudes towards teachers in 21 countries.  The index found that there were significant differences between the status of teachers worldwide.


In two-thirds of countries, the status of teachers was judged to be most similar to that of social workers. Only in China did people rank teachers as having a similar status to doctors.¬†¬† The survey also found that in many countries ‚Äď including Portugal, Japan, Brazil, Germany, Czech Republic, Germany, France, and Italy – between a third and half of parents would probably or definitely not encourage their children from entering the teaching profession.





  1. The Varkey GEMS Foundation is the philanthropic arm of GEMS Education. Its aim is to impact 100 underprivileged children for every child enrolled in a GEMS school. The Honorary Chair of the Foundation is former US President, Bill Clinton.


  1. The judging academy includes Kevin Spacey, Academy winning actor, Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor of London; John Riady, Executive Director, LIPPO Group, Indonesia; Jiang Xueqin, Vice-Principal, Tsinghua International School, China; Le Thu Thu Thuy, Vice-Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer, Vingroup Joint Stock Company, Vietnam; Thura Ko Ko, Managing Director, YGA Capital, Myanmar; Eva Dichand, Editor, Heute, Austria; Kasim Kasuri, CEO Beaconhouse School System, Pakistan; Karen Davila, News Anchor and Correspondent, ABS-CBN Television Network, Philippines; Timothy Chen, Vice-President, Business Development and Strategy, VIA Technologies, HTC-VIA, China; Jeremy Balkin, Founder, Give While You Live, Australia;  Soulaima Gourani, Author, Denmark; Rex A. Barnardo, Director of Research, Mabini Colleges, Philippines; Claire Boonstra, Founder, Operation Education, Netherlands; Nitsara Karoonuthaisiri, Head, Microarray Laboratory, National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Thailand; Avril Halstead, Chief Director, National Treasury, South Africa;  Ory Okolloh, Director of Investments, Omidyar Network, South Africa; Esperanza Spalding, Grammy winning music artist, USA Ayla Goksel, CEO, ACEV, Turkey; Merieme Chadid, Explorer and Astronomer, Antarctica Research Station; Brett Wigdortz, CEO, Teach First, UK; Loulwa Bakr, Investment Banker, Saudi Arabia; Ana Gabriela Pessoa, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Ezlearn, Brazil; Areena Loo, Founder & Chief Executive, Bridge Learning, Singapore; Vandana Goyal, CEO, The Akanksha Foundation, India; Moís Cherem Arana, Managing Director & CEO, Enova, Mexico; Wendy Kopp, Founder, Teach for America, USA; Baroness Martha Lane Fox, UK;  David Rodin, Philosopher, UK; Arif Rachmat, Director, Triputra Investindo Arya (Triputra Group), Indonesia; Gemma Mortensen, Executive Director, Crisis Action, UK; Analisa Balares, CEO & Founder, Womensphere; Chair, Womensphere Foundation, USA; Yanovskiy, Founder and Managing Partner, First Nation Société Bancaire, Russia;  Lopa Patel MBE, Editor,, UK; Dave Hanley, Principal, Deloitte Digital, USA; Herman Kasekende, CEO & MD, Standard Chartered Bank, Uganda;  Shalini Mahtani, Founder, The Zubin Foundation, Hong Kong; Claire Hsu, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong; Lin Kobayashi, Co-Founder and Chair of the Board, Foundation for International School of Asia, Karuizawa, Japan; Hadeel Ibrahim, Executive Director, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, USA; Jubril Adewale Tinubu, Group CEO, Oando, Nigeria; Strive Masiyiwa, Founder & Executive Chairman, Econet Wireless, South Africa;  Christopher Khaemba, Governor, Centre for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education in Africa, Kenya; Chris Pope, Co-Director, The Prince’s Teaching Institute, UK; Gina Badenoch, Professional Photographer & Social Entrepreneur, Mexico; Tariq Al Gurg, CEO, Dubai Cares, UAE;  Futhi Mtoba, Chairperson, Deloitte South Africa; Jeff Canada, CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone, USA; Angela A. Sun, Chief-of-Staff to the President and CEO of Bloomberg, L.P. USA; Katharina Borchert, CEO, Spiegel Online, Germany; Vicky Colbert, Founder and Director, Fundación Escuela Nueva, Colombia; Nik Kafka, Founder & CEO, Teach A Man to Fish, UK; Louis Albert Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank, USA.
  2. The prize committee will look for evidence that applicants for the Varkey GEMS Foundation Global Teacher Prize have met the following criteria:
  3. Innovative and effective instructional practices and student learning outcomes in the classroom and school.
  4. Accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide role models for the teaching¬†profession ‚Äď whether through charitable or community work, or through sporting, academic or cultural achievement.
  5. Contributions to public debates on raising the bar of the teaching profession, whether through writing articles, blogs, take part in media and social media campaigns, events or conferences.
  6. Sharing inspirational education practices with other teachers
  7. Preparing children to be global citizens in a world where they will encounter people from many different religions, cultures and nationalities.
  8. Improving access to a quality education for children of all backgrounds.
  9. Third party recognition of a teacher‚Äôs achievements in the classroom and beyond. ¬†This can include pupils, colleagues, head-teacher as well as members of the wider community ‚Äď including government, faith organisations and business. ¬†Supporting written and/or video testimonials should be provided.
  10. Encouraging others to join the teaching profession
  11. PricewaterhouseCoopers will be responsible for ensuring that the balloting process is fair and accurate.  Criminal record and other background checks will be conducted on the shortlisted candidates.
  12. The terms and conditions of the prize nullify any applications from those with criminal convictions.  The winner will be expected to remain an upstanding citizen and do nothing to bring the profession of teachers into disrepute.  Any outstanding payments will cease to any winner who has not met these standards.
  13. Any costs and expenses that the winning teacher’s school face because of their absence from the classroom will be reimbursed by the Varkey GEMS Foundation.
  14. Applications cannot be accepted from countries that prevent teachers by law from entering work-related competitions.

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