A Quebec teacher is a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, an award handed out every year to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession.

Originally from Nova Scotia, Maggie MacDonnell is now a teacher in the remote Nunavik region of Quebec.

She has championed a healthier lifestyle and worked with a municipality to build a fitness centre that is open to adults and local schools.

MacDonnell says she's seen the impact of physical activity first-hand in a community where youths battle substance abuse, isolation and suicide.

“Witnessing the funerals of my students is one of the hardest things I've ever gone through and I never want to be in that position again,” she said.

“What has always inspired me is the youth that I work with. I really believe they are the true Northern Lights. I'm just here to find ways to take down barriers so that they could shine, so that they could dance, so that they could light up our lives.”

The prize comes with a $1 million purse.

If she wins, MacDonnell has said she would like to establish a non-profit that runs environmentally focused programs for northern youth.