In a special video message (below) announcing Selvakumaran and the other top ten finalists, Australian film star Hugh Jackman paid a powerful tribute to the work of teachers around the world, describing them as the “real superheroes”.
A history and society and culture teacher, Selvakumaran is nationally recognised as an outstanding teacher and leader.
A Tamil-Sri Lankan-born Australian, her parents left Sri Lanka amongst growing civil tensions, and she grew up in rural and regional Australia, before moving to Sydney to complete university.
Selvakumaran’s interest in history was awakened by historiography, with its emphasis on the need to recognise assumptions and biases, and developed through specialisation in post-colonial histories and global education.
Rooty Hill High School is located in a socio-economically deprived area, with a significant enrolment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and there are often community battles with stereotypes that poorer students cannot be high achievers.
A large number of these students experience trauma, which they may continue to encounter during their high school years.
Despite having caring responsibilities for someone with a chronic illness, Selvakumaran has achieved consistently high results in a school that performs just below state average.
She was shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize from more than 10,000 nominations and applications from 39 countries around the world.
Selvakumaran and the other nine finalists will be invited to Dubai for the Award ceremony at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) on Sunday March 24, where the winner will be announced live on stage.