Teacher Samuel Isaiah is one of two Malaysians who have been shortlisted for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2020.

Samuel used to travel 200km daily to teach at SK Runchang, Pahang for eight years in a school that comprised of predominantly Orang Asli pupils. He then introduced fun and innovative projects in class including setting up a “Sekolah Pokok” where he conducted English lessons by singing songs and teaching poetry at the Orang Asli settlement.

Last year, Samuel was recognised as one of the 10 winners of the Star Golden Hearts Award 2019 – an annual award that celebrates everyday Malaysian unsung heroes – for his work with the Orang Asli children. Samuel is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in the University of New York as a Fulbright scholar, he is majoring in Educational Policy and Leadership.


The Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize is an annual award that carries a US$1mil (RM4.3mil) prize money for one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

Samuel dreams of creating a sustainable community network to educate and empower Orang Asli children if he wins.

Apart from Samuel, teacher Norhailmi Abdul Mutalib from SMK Jerlun, Kedah was also shortlisted for the award.

While humbled by the recognition, Samuel said it was more important that he is able to represent the Orang Asli children on a global platform.

“I am most proud of how they continuously fight against stigma and display many capabilities despite the inequity and inequality they face, ” he said.

The Global Teacher Prize, since its launch five years ago, has now inspired over 30 national teacher prizes.

The Varnam team wishes both teachers the very best on their journey.

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