Miami teacher selected as finalist for $1M Global Teacher Prize

MIAMI (WSVN) - A South Florida teacher could receive an international honor. 7News spoke to the man who’s made an outstanding contribution to his profession.

Dr. Joseph Underwood is a television production teacher at Miami Senior High School.

He’s one of only 50 finalists selected from 30,000 nominees from around the world for a one million dollar teaching prize.

“I was completely taken by surprise,” said Underwood. “I mean, to have 30,000 people go and try to apply to something as prestigious as this and then to be named in the top 50 in the world can really take your breath away.”

The million dollar Global Teacher Prize was established in 2013 by the Varkey Foundation. The prize recognizes exceptional teachers.

“I think it says a lot about the Miami-Dade County Public Schools — what we do for our kids. We try to help them a lot,” said Underwood.

Underwood has been teaching at Miami Senior High School for 33 years.

His students put on a daily newscast for the entire school, which has more than 3,000 students. They explore local and national issues during the newscast, and students involved have said Underwood gives them a sense of confidence.

“Every time I talk to him about an idea, he helps me create and empowers me to actually do more,” said student Melanie Tobar.

Tobar is a senior who wants to be a television news anchor. “I used to be very shy, and this has helped me, like, be comfortable in front of the camera,” said Tobar.

“He has helped me become the person I am today,” said student Samantha Jiron.

“The secret to being a good teacher is having a passion, knowing your ‘why,’ having a passion and knowing that what you do every morning is gonna impact these kids for a long time,” said Underwood.

In March, Underwood will find out if he won the Global Teacher Prize. He said he would put the money back into his television production class.

“The computers we have, the editors we have are old, and there’s just not funding to get them replaced, and that’s a pretty expensive undertaking, so that would be the first thing,” said Underwood.

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