World Best teachers: Nancie Atwell from Maine USA


What’s so great about Nancie Atwell, well she became the first recipient of the Global Teacher Prize in 2015. She was chosen as the best teacher in the world. The award is called the Nobel Prize in teaching and awards 1 Million dollars and citation to the teacher.

She was chosen one from over 5,000 nominations from 127 countries. Nancie has devoted 40 years to teaching and last 25 years with her centre with a belief that reading and writing is one of the best ways to groom a student.

The award is given by The Varkey Foundation, a global charitable foundation focused on improving the standards of education for underprivileged children. It was formed in 2010 by Sunny Varkey, the founder and chairman of GEMS Education, the world's largest operator of kindergarten-to-grade-12 schools.

Nancie Atwell opened the Center for Teaching and Learning 25 years ago in 1990 to make an unconventional classroom where kids have just one relationship which is author or reader. The kids at her school read on an average of 40 books a year, well above the national average.

The journey itself is interesting, She began teaching in New York in 1973 to seventh and eighth graders, her favourite age group to teach. Since she loved books she noticed the students weren’t very much into reading and writing and then she initiated the writing workshop. In the writing workshop students could choose their own topics, books and write what they want and at the pace they want. They had one on one session with teachers during the workshop. During the workshop she noticed something amazing happened, student engagement shot up when students were allowed to choose what they wanted to read and write. She could let go all the control of the classroom and let students take control of what they are doing.

Since public schools won’t innovate to great extent and they have to be somewhere within the limits of the modern education system she moved to Maine and founded Centre for Teaching and Learning. In her schools there are no tests, all classroom have books, they are small and students can pick up what they want to read and write about. The kids at the school go through an innovative learning program on science, maths, social learning, history and more. With one rule at the school which is you can’t say, you can’t play.

Nancie has written many books on teaching and most popular is in the middle. Now in 3rd addition. She has received many awards and In 2011 she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of New Hampshire.

Nancie thinks the best way to groom is a student is through reading and writing and that’s the reason almost all the kids (around 97% of them) have matriculated to universities, like Cornell, George Washington University, Harvard, Stanford, Tufts, University of Chicago and more.

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