Nancie Atwell, the educator from Lincoln County who was awarded a $1 million teaching prize in March 2015, has been issued a summons on a charge that she shoplifted a white blouse from the Renys in Damariscotta last month.

Damariscotta Police Chief Ronald Young said Renys security personnel using closed-circuit cameras were observing Atwell as she browsed the women’s section at the store March 28 when she removed a $14.99 blouse from a hanger, rolled it up and placed it in another bag she was carrying.

A still image taken from security video at a Renys store in Damariscotta allegedly shows Nancie Atwell, who is charged with misdemeanor theft.

A still image taken from security video at a Renys store in Damariscotta allegedly shows Nancie Atwell, who is charged with misdemeanor theft. Courtesy of Damariscotta police

After she left, the security staff called Young and he went to the store to view the video. He didn’t recognize the woman, but snapped a cellphone picture of the screen at one point and posted it to the department’s Facebook page.

“Within an hour I had a call from Ms. Atwell,” Young said.

She met with the chief and told him the alleged shoplifting was a misunderstanding, saying she had returned another item and took the white blouse in exchange.

“She denied it,” Young said. “She said she returned one piece of clothing for another piece of clothing. But there was no return that I could see on the video. She explained her side of it, and I told her that’s not what my investigation revealed.”

Atwell is expected to appear May 12 in Lincoln County District Court in Wiscasset on a single count of theft by unauthorized taking, a misdemeanor.

Reached at her home Thursday, Atwell said she intends to plead not guilty.

“I am not guilty,” she said. “This is a misunderstanding. I have no further comment.”

Atwell, who lives in Southport, founded the Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb in 1990. She previously taught middle school English and writing in Boothbay Harbor.

Head of School Matt MacDonald defended the school’s founder in a brief phone interview Thursday morning.

“What I would say is that it’s a misunderstanding and she is not guilty,” MacDonald said.

Officials at Renys’ corporate office didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Atwell has no prior criminal record in Maine, according to state records.

She was the first recipient of the Global Teacher Prize on March 15, 2015, at a ceremony in Dubai with former President Bill Clinton in attendance.

The Global Teacher Prize was created by the Varkey Foundation, a philanthropic offshoot of Global Education Management Systems, a Dubai-based company and the largest operator of private elementary and secondary schools in the world. It has schools in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, North America and Europe.

Nancie Atwell

Nancie Atwell

Other finalists for the prize included educators from Indonesia, the United Kingdom, India, Haiti, Kenya, Cambodia, Afghanistan and two other teachers from the United States. The award was created to elevate the profession of teaching and improve education.

Atwell was chosen from a field of 5,000 nominees from 127 countries who were winnowed down to 50 in January 2015 and then to 10 finalists. After winning the award, she said she planned to donate the full amount to her school to fund scholarships, book purchases and building maintenance projects. It isn’t known whether Atwell has received the prize money.

About 40 to 50 teachers from around the world go to the Edgecomb school each year to study the teaching methods of its 10 full- and part-time staff members. The student teachers’ tuition goes toward a scholarship fund for students who cannot afford the school’s annual $8,500 tuition. The school has an enrollment of 69 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Atwell has written nine books on teaching, one of which has sold more than 500,000 copies.