US Teacher Wins $1M Prize, Plans to Give It Away
Nancie Atwell, 63, calls Global Teaching Prize 'a miracle'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2015 1:30 PM CDT
Nancie Atwell poses with Bill Clinton and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, after winning the Global Teacher Prize in Dubai, UAE, March 15, 2015.   (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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(Newser) – A US teacher who prefers reading and self-expression to standardized testing has won a $1 million prize, and plans to donate the entire thing—to a school she founded in Maine 25 years ago, USA Today reports. Nancie Atwell, 63, heard the good news today at a ceremony in Dubai where the Varkey Foundation handed out the renowned Global Teaching Prize. "It's like a miracle," says Atwell. "It'll mean life for my school for another decade." Atwell says she plans to spend the money on replacing two furnaces ("the boilers are shot"), buying new books, and boosting tuition aid at the private demonstration school that gives training to teachers from far and wide.

Called the Center for Teaching and Learning, the school trains teachers of kindergarten through eighth grade in a technique that centers on self-expression and stories. Over the years, Atwell says, she replaced standardized texts with fiction and non-fiction that students liked—at the same time America moved toward the standardized testing of Common Core. "I worry that educational bureaucrats have a problem with pleasure," she says, "that if kids are enjoying what they're doing, it can't be rigorous or worthwhile." The high-profile awards ceremony in Dubai (which attracted none other than Bill Clinton) is designed to highlight teaching the way that high-flying professionals in sports and finance receive recognition, the BBC reports.