Nancie Atwell just won a $1 million award as the recipient of the first Global Teacher Prize, and her plan for the money is making headlines.
Atwell, a teacher and the founder of the Center for Teaching & Learning in Edgecomb, Maine, said she plans to donate all of the money directly into her non-profit school.
Atwell’s independent K-8 school gained a reputation for its strong teacher training programs and curriculum based on well-researched and proven teaching methods. She is also a staunch advocate of reading, encouraging children at the school to seek out books on their own.
Her school is not just educating students, but teachers as well. Each year the Center for Teaching & Learning hosts dozens of teachers from around the country who engage in workshops and observe the school’s 10 teachers in action.
At a time when student testing has grown more rigid and teaching standards sharper, Nancie Atwell said she likes to encourage creativity and does not place as much value in these evaluations.
“The yardsticks for measuring teacher achievement, especially in the U.S., I don’t think are accurate or humane,” she says. “I would like to be a model for the kind of teacher that is autonomous, creative and thoughtful.”
Nancie Atwell also tried to help others learn her methods, writing a popular book, In The Middle, that has become something of a foundation for many literacy programs.
Atwell was chosen for the $1 million prize, beating out nine other teachers for the award known as the “Nobel Prize of teaching.”
“I was horribly anxious. It was something that was on my mind even when I didn’t know it was on my mind,” Atwell says. “Those other nine teachers are extraordinary, so it was daunting to even think about.”
The 63-year-old Atwell said she never planned on becoming a teacher, but eventually found her way into the field in 1973 and said she was hooked.
“I am so inspired by all my students, but especially the seventh- and eighth-graders,” she says. “They are so uninhibited and if you ask them to do something they will just work their heads and hearts off.”
The $1 million prize will go a long way at Center for Teaching & Learning. Nancie Atwell said she plans on adding on to the school’s library and putting more money into tuition assistance, allowing the school’s student body to grow more diverse.
[Image via Press Herald]