Dubai teacher feted with Mariamma Varkey Award for inspirational and outstanding teaching at GEMS

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[From left: Luke Oung, Rachael Parkinson, Faith Fauchelle, Katrina Hansen and Rayan Safi-Harb with their awards at GEMS World Academy event.]
Dubai: A teacher who sacrifices even his personal time for students and teaches them important life lessons inside — and most especially, outside — the classroom bagged this year’s Mariamma Varkey Award for inspirational and outstanding teaching at GEMS.

Luke Oung, 33, received the Most Inspirational Teacher Award on Thursday night, the eve of the International Teachers’ Day celebrated worldwide annually every October 5.



Oung, an English teacher from Cambridge International School, was among the five awardees of the evening from 44 nominees who represented the “best of the best” out of the 8,000 staff at the GEMS Education network.

Now in its third year, the award was named after Mariamma, the matriarch of the Varkey family who was a former teacher from India. She and her husband established Our Own English High School in 1968, the first school under the group that was established by the couple’s son Sunny in 2000.

Known to his colleagues and community to have “the skills, the disposition, and experience to make him an incredible leader of learning”, Oung is not only an English teacher. He is also a passionate coach of debating teams and sports. He recently came back with the team from Singapore for an international competition.

“Taking students outside the classroom, involving yourself as a teacher, and giving up weekend evenings to do extra-curricular activities like taking them abroad, experiencing new things outside the classroom is fundamental to me. I think we all as classroom teacher practitioners should be outstanding as a given and I think we should all be stepping outside the classroom and experiencing life with our students as well,” Oung, who has been a teacher for 11 years, said.

Teaching runs in the blood of the British expat. His mother was a vice principal in the UK who moved to Dubai 10 years ago to be a vice principal at a GEMS school. His father, a former police officer, became a teacher of disaffected students or students with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.




Hearing his father’s former students speak highly of their teacher during his funeral two years ago gave him the extra nudge to be the best he can be.

“He would involve them in community projects and give them a sense of worth again. They said he put their lives on track with the way he had faith in them. That gave me an extra push the last couple of years,” he said. “Time is worth sacrificing for any student.”

In all, there are six educators in his family, including his wife. Oung said she deserved recognition for her sacrifices for the family whenever he is away with students on projects, locally or outside the country. Apart from the award, Oung also gets to take home $60,000 (Dh220,200).

Dino Varkey, CEO of GEMS Education, said these inspiring teachers are shaping the future of not just our younger generations, but also the world as a whole.

“Our teachers are our most prized assets, and the Mariamma Varkey Award is our way of recognising and celebrating the truly remarkable things they do day in, day out.”



“Passionate, dedicated educators, they are empowering and inspiring our students through their work, selflessly facilitating and accelerating the development and growth of youth across the UAE.”

Other Winners

  1. Katrina Hansen from GEMS United School: ‘Early and Primary Years’ Award “Known for her warmth positivity and boundless enthusiasm”
  2. Rachael Parkinson from GEMS Wellington Academy — Al Khail: Award in the ‘Secondary Years’ category “Inspiring our scientists of the future, Rachel is just a brilliant human being”
  3. Faith Fauchelle from GEMS Royal Dubai School: The ‘Inclusion’ Award “Highlights the role of others in supporting students with their learning needs, helping our children of determination.”
  4. Rayan Safi-Harb from GEMS World Academy — Abu Dhabi: ‘Arabic and Islamic’ Award. “Rayan is passionate, cares deeply about her students and shows love for her work.”

Each winner received Dh88,080 (US$24,000) as a cash prize along with a citation.

Source: Gulf News