DUBAI - A Palestinian teacher from the West Bank has won a $1 million award for her innovative approach of using play to counter violent behaviour.

Hanan Al-Hroub, who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem and now teaches at a high school in the West Bank, was awarded the Global Teacher award at a ceremony in Dubai on Sunday.

Wearing a traditional Palestinian dress and black veil, Hroub was hailed by world leaders at the ceremony for the Nobel-style award, set up two years ago by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation.

Detailed in her book "We Play and Learn", Hroub's approach has "led to a decline in violent behaviour in schools where this is usually a frequent occurrence," the foundation said in a statement.

"We can teach children to be effective and inventive through various contexts which include entertainment, drawing and movement," Hroub said after she was awarded the prize. "We need to help children with questioning, dialogue, thinking and feeling to help them express themselves."

Video messages from Pope Francis, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Vice President Joe Biden, Britain's Prince William and Microsoft founder Bill Gates were broadcast at the ceremony. The foundation, set up by Dubai-based education entrepreneur Sunny Varkey, is paid in instalments and requires the winner to remain a teacher for at least five years.

In a statement, Varkey said he hoped Hroub's story "will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over Palestine and throughout the world every day."