In celebration of World Teachers’ Day, I’m excited to congratulate the 2012 class of Mentor and Pathfinder schools joining the Microsoft Partners in Learning (PIL) Schools Program. These schools and the teachers behind them are a constant source of inspiration for their steadfast dedication and passion to drive positive change in education.

The 82 schools selected from 61 countries provide a glimpse of the best innovations happening in education around the world. Selected through a rigorous application and evaluation process, these schools were chosen based on their global examples of inspirational leadership, proven records of innovation, and successful implementations of change. The Microsoft Partners in Learning Schools Program was built on findings from 12 pioneering innovative schools that have each taken a unique approach to assessing, improving, and evaluating their learning environments to successfully move beyond the limits of the classroom and traditional learning models. There are now more than 7,000 schools in this program. You can see and learn more about the Pathfinder and Mentor schools on this interactive Bing map.

While all of these schools face different challenges and opportunities, their implementations of innovation in the classroom have global relevance that we can all learn from. Based on the notion that teachers cannot be successful innovators unless their school systems support inventive teaching and learning, the PIL Schools program helps school leaders develop a vision to transform their school community into an environment that fosters 21st century learning. Through the mentorship program, schools can share successes as well as search for solutions by tapping the global intelligence of some of the most notably successful schools, and school leaders, in the world. The program aims to discover, share and scale best practice and develop models and assets that any school can use to help students reach their full potential. The video below gives an overview of three of our Mentor Schools from Colombia, Finland, and South Africa.

It takes great leadership to drive great change in any organization, and especially in education there is an increasing need to elevate women into leadership positions. UNESCO established World Teachers’ Day back in 1994 to celebrate the profession and to promote international standards for teaching. This year’s theme is “teachers for gender equality. “ Earlier this year, Microsoft and UNESCO entered a new partnership to address the unequal education opportunities and low literacy rates for women and girls across the world. We hope that today’s spotlight on the importance of teachers for children’s successful futures renews and spurs  more discussions and actions to open up equal opportunities for women and girls to access a quality education. For more on that, please read UNESCO’s blog post on the Microsoft On The Issues blog.