‘Nobel laureate’ of teachers
DUBAI // An American teacher who founded a small non-profit school with a mandate for innovation became a millionaire on Sunday when she won a global teaching prize.
Nancie Atwell, 63, an English teacher and founder of the Centre of Teaching and Learning in Maine, was presented with the US$1 million (Dh3.67mn) prize at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.
“It was a total surprise,” said Mrs Atwell, who founded the school in 1990.
“I will direct all of it to my school. It will support tuition assistance and it will enable us to buy the books that make our programme so special, because many, many teachers across the US look to our kids to recommend books for their children, so we’ll be able to stay current. We’ll be able to provide that guidance and advice to the rest of the young readers in the nation.”
The money will also be used to replace the school’s 25-year-old heating boiler and to keep the operation going for at least another decade, said Mrs Atwell.
The Centre of Teaching and Learning is a demonstration school that accepts no more than 80 pupils each year. Teachers from around the world are invited to spend a week at the school to study its methods.
“The mandate for teachers at our school is to innovate so people are continuously developing new methods; strong methods that change children’s lives,” said Mrs Atwell.
“We’ll continue to be a laboratory, a seedbed of innovation and good ideas for other teachers, who will continue to have an impact on lots and lots of children.”
Mrs Atwell received the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai; former United States president Bill Clinton, honorary chairman of the Varkey Foundation; and Sunny Varkey, its founder.
Referred to as the Nobel Prize for teaching, it is the largest of its kind and was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
The 10 finalists included nominees from the US and Cambodia. All showed determination to overcome obstacles and to improve education. After fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan, Azizullah Royesh set up the Marefat School for Afghan Refugees in Pakistan.
He returned to Kabul in 2001 after the collapse of the Taliban regime and opened the Marefat High School.
“Despite the fall of the Taliban we still faced a lot of resistance from people, particularly because we have a mixed school for boys and girls,” said Mr Royesh.
When Charles Guy Etienne embarked on revolutionising science teaching in Haiti it was met with suspicion by his government. Officials were concerned his chemistry lessons would lead to explosions.
“They said I would be the one who would get the blame if there was an incident like that, but we pushed forward with the teaching,” said Mr Etienne, the headmaster at College Catts Pressoir in Port-au-Prince since 1982.
He emphasises a scientific approach to solving the problems of the wider community.