Nancie Atwell named world’s best teacher

Bernd Debusmann Jr. (Chief Reporter) Filed on March 17, 2015

Goal is excellence, she says after receiving $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize from Shaikh Mohammed.

Shaikh Mohammed, Bill Clinton and Sunny Varkey with Nancie Atwell, winner of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, during the Global Education and Skills Forum 2015 awards night in Dubai on Sunday. — KT photo by Leslie Pableo

Dubai — American Nancie Atwell won the prestigious Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, widely considered the Nobel Prize for teaching, at a ceremony during the Global Education and Skills Forum 2015 in Dubai.

The $1-million award was presented by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Varkey Foundation founder Sunny Varkey.

Atwell, who teaches 8th grade at the Centre for Teaching and Learning in Southport, Maine, champions literature as a cornerstone of her teaching method, with her students reading an average of 40 books a year. Additionally, Atwell has won many other awards for teaching and has herself written nine books, which have been praised by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. “The goal is excellence, always,” Atwell said. “Engagement in the task, whether it’s teaching or learning, is the means to achieve excellence.

“I hope to convey to young people considering the teaching life that it is a privilege to develop relationships with children, to develop methods that transform their lives, to give them perspective on the lives of others around the globe, and to be of use in this robust and nurturing way.”

Former US president Bill Clinton; Rwandan President Paul Kagame; Reem Ibrahim Al Hashemi, Minister of State; and Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, were among those present at the ceremony. Clinton said: “I think the most important thing this prize has done is to re-awaken the world’s appreciation of the importance of teachers ... There are still too many children, tens of millions of them, not in school, and too many others without access to trained teachers or learning materials.

“All of these things will fall in their place if first we value the enterprise of education and the work of teachers.”

Atwell was chosen from 10 international finalists by a committee made up of prominent individuals including actor Kevin Spacey; social activist Geoffrey Canada; Carina Wong, deputy director of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; entrepreneur Baroness Martha Lane Fox; and Grammy-winning musician Esperanza Spalding.

 The 10 finalists were chosen from a larger list of 50 short-listed candidates, who in turn were chosen from 5,000 nominations from 127 countries.


Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Originally from Mexico City, I've been in Dubai since January 2015. Before arriving in in the UAE I worked as a general news reporter in TV and print in Mexico City, NYC and Washington DC. I'm interested in defence issues, politics, technology, aviation and history. In my spare time i enjoy traveling and football - I'm a keen fan of Chelsea FC. I developed an interest in the Middle East traveling through Jordan and the West Bank. I have a BA in Political Science from Dickinson College in the USA and an MA in International Journalism from City University London.

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