Nancie Atwell, a longtime teacher from midcoast Maine, will learn Sunday whether she’s been awarded an international prize that has been dubbed the Nobel Prize for teaching.

Atwell, 63, is one of 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize, sponsored by the Varkey GEMS Foundation, the largest operators of private K-12 schools around the world.

She and her daughter, Anne Atwell-McLeod, who is also a teacher, traveled Friday to Dubai for the award ceremony.

Atwell founded the Center for Teaching and Learning, a private elementary and middle school in Edgecomb, in 1990 and remains a teacher there. It’s the state’s only demonstration school – a place where students learn in a private setting but also a place where teachers from elsewhere regularly visit and observe alternative methods of education.

Each year, the school hosts 40 to 50 classroom teachers from all over the world for weeklong seminars in which they observe the school’s 10 full- and part-time teachers in a classroom setting.

The school is traditional in some ways but unique in others, with a big focus on reading. Students at the school read an average of 40 books each year, most of them books they choose themselves.


Atwell already was a distinguished teacher and author before she founded the Center for Teaching and Learning.

In 1987, she wrote a teaching manual called “In the Middle” that has sold more than 500,000 copies and made her a sought-after educational speaker all over the world. She has nine books on teaching to her credit.

The Global Teacher Prize was created last spring by the Varkey GEMS Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Global Education Management Systems. The foundation focuses on teacher training programs and education advocacy, as well as building schools around the world.

A judging committee will award the Global Teacher Prize to “one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession,” according to the Varkey GEMS Foundation website. Finalists will be judged on “how they open up their pupils’ minds, how much they contribute to the community, and how much they encourage others to become teachers.”

More than 5,000 people were nominated for the award and the list was whittled to 50 in January, including 16 teachers from the U.S. That list was culled to 10 finalists last month.

Atwell said in January that if she’s fortunate enough to win, she will give every penny of the $1 million award to the school.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or:

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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