Olafsfjorour, ICELAND

 

Photographer: Deanna Ng

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Lara Stefánsdóttir is principal of Menntaskólinn á Tröllaskaga, a junior college in the northern Icelandic town of Olafsfjorour. She took up her post six years ago, just after rules were introduced giving schools enormous freedom to design their own curriculums. That change, however, was also a challenge. “In a small town, most students don’t finish school. Most either become sailors or marry one. You can earn a million or two kronas going out to sea. So why bother with education?” Her answer was to help students figure out why staying on at school could give them more options for their future and allow them to stay and maintain their roots in the town. “The school builds the community and in return, the community helps build the school,” she says. Atli Tómasson has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a chronic condition that makes it hard for him to sustain attention. Before Lara became Menntaskólinn á Tröllaskaga’s principal, he was constantly dropping in and out of school. He finally graduated after Lara worked with him, trying out different classes to find out what he liked and was good at. He is now a fine art student at university.