Prime Minister and former teacher Justin Trudeau has congratulated MacDonnell “on behalf of all Canadians, from one teacher to another”.
“You have done extraordinary things in exceptional circumstances and have [shown] enormous heart, will and imagination,” Trudeau said.
MacDonnell, who teaches in a remote fly-in-only village in the Arctic, has been praised for “changing the lives of her students and transforming her community”.
She was selected as the winner from 10 finalists. These 10 where whittled down from a staggering 20,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries.
Salluit, the village where MacDonnell works, faces exceptionally brutal temperatures - in winter these sit around minus 25C. The community also has reportedly high levels of suicide and sexual abuse.
Due to these conditions, teacher turnover is often high, with many educators leaving midway through the year, applying for stress leave.
Responding to these challenges, MacDonnell created a life skills programme which targets girls in the community and seeks to uplift their position in society.
She also secured over $20,000 in funding for an in-school nutrition program, which encourages students to prepare healthy snacks for each other.
In order to combat drinking, smoking and self-harm issues, MacDonnell established a fitness centre for students who need an outlet and a sense of community. She also attended suicide prevention training education sessions.
MacDonnell’s bio reveals that her approach has been about transforming students from “problems” to “solutions” through initiatives such as “acts of kindness”.
Her class has also picked up on that mindset, with students fundraising over $37,000 for Diabetes Prevention.
The astounding MacDonnell has also been a temporary foster parent, including to some of her own students.
Speaking to The Canadian Press, MacDonnell said that she was excited that three of her students could make the trip to Dubai with her.
“They’re a huge part of the story and the reason I chose to get involved (in the award) was to make sure it could in some way benefit their lives,” she said.
The Global Teacher Prize was established three years ago, honors the dedication, hard work, and outstanding contribution to the teaching profession.