‘Optimistic and sharing joy’ – meet ORT’s Teacher of the Year  


A ‘sparkly, positive’ teacher at Singapore’s leading Jewish school has been named ORT’s Teacher of the Year for 2021 in celebration of her dedication and commitment to her students and colleagues.

Maire Clapham, a primary teacher at the ORT-affiliated Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS), was recognized for her response to the challenges posed by Covid. Her colleagues praised her work overseeing the switch to online learning, as well as her focus on providing peers with professional and emotional support.

She was presented with the inaugural award during a live final attended online by dozens of teachers, school principals and organization leaders from around 15 countries including Israel, the United States, Britain, Russia, South Africa, Argentina and Mexico.

Announcing Ms Clapham as the recipient of the award, Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “Maire has shown her complete dedication as a teacher, colleague, friend and leader. She took on additional responsibilities, working tirelessly to lead the primary school, planning and preparing lessons throughout the night, while concentrating on wellbeing and mental health.

“Maire epitomizes what it means to be a teacher in our ORT network – working with integrity and passion, co-operating with colleagues locally and globally, and above all else ensuring her students are well-prepared for meaningful, successful futures. We congratulate her wholeheartedly on receiving this award.”

Accepting the award, Australian Ms Clapham said: “I’d really like to say a very big thank you – I’m so incredibly honored to be receiving the Teacher of the Year Award, and I’m so grateful to be recognized amongst what was clearly an incredible field of candidates.

“I’m very thankful to be a part of a school that is in the World ORT network. I’m so lucky to work in a school like SMMIS where our leadership is collaborative and supportive. And the entire staff team has so much obvious joy and passion for what they do – it’s a really motivating place to work and I learn so much from my students and my colleagues every day.

“The last couple of years has been such a challenging time for education, but there have been so many opportunities hidden in there as well. Not only to work together to find ways to keep the learning journey moving forward for our students, but also to find ways to connect on deeper levels, to use tools and technologies in creative ways.

“And to lead by example, with a growth mindset at the forefront of our approaches, recognizing and building on the obstacles along the way.

“Teaching and education remains a really deeply personal human endeavor, and I’m so thankful to be part of this industry. Especially a big thank you to my students because they make every day as a teacher just so unbelievably worth it.”

Maire Clapham assists a student at SMMIS in Singapore

Ms Clapham supported other staff members and helped develop their skills and expertise in remote teaching while overseeing the provision of essential equipment needed to work comfortably from home.

She also provided emotional support for two colleagues who had lost relatives in their home countries but were unable to travel back to be with their families.

SMMIS Principal Elaine Robinson, said: “With extended months of lockdown and restrictions, Maire remained positive and optimistic and shared her joy and sparkly nature with all those around her. Maire kept staff buoyant and positive throughout. Maire does so much quietly and behind the scenes without drawing attention to herself.”

SMMIS parent Olga added: “Ms Maire has a very special personality. They say ‘it takes a big heart to teach little minds’ – this encapsulates her approach.”

The Singapore school has been affiliated to the ORT network since 2019. With its rigorous international education provision and vibrant approach to Jewish values, tradition and culture, the school is a natural partner for ORT.

The Teacher of the Year competition was launched on World Teachers’ Day last month and saw dozens of students, parents, school principals and supporters nominate their candidates. Entries came from countries across the ORT network.

Candidates were assessed on how they had demonstrated their commitment and resilience during this time in order to help their students and colleagues.

Maire Clapham has repeatedly shown her dedication to her students during the past year

Mr Green said: “This past year has posed an almost unprecedented challenge to educators globally. When our schools were forced to close due to national lockdowns, hundreds of thousands of ORT students were faced with uncertainty about their education.

“Thanks to the dedication of their teachers, we were able to adapt to remote learning and sustain and develop great educational experiences for our students.

“We have known the value of great teachers since ORT was founded in 1880, but in the past 18 months countless educators went above and beyond the call of duty – we are delighted to take this opportunity to celebrate them and their work.”