NANCIE ATWELL, founder of the nonprofit Center for Teaching and Learning, is among 10 finalists for the “Nobel Prize of Teaching.”

NANCIE ATWELL, founder of the nonprofit Center for Teaching and Learning, is among 10 finalists for the “Nobel Prize of Teaching.”


An Edgecomb teacher and founder of the nonprofit Center for Teaching and Learning is among 10 finalists for the “Nobel Prize of Teaching,” the Varkey GEMS Foundation Global Teacher Prize, which includes a $1 million award.

Nancie Atwell will travel in March to Dubai to learn if she’s been selected for the award.

Atwell is one of only three U.S. educators to make the final 10, according to a release from the foundation. She joins Naomi Volain of Springfield Central High School in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Stephen Ritz at Public School 55 in Bronx, New York.

On Thursday, Atwell joined faculty and students at the Edgecomb school for “a huge party” during their morning meeting.

“I got roses, and there was a sheet cake with my global teacher prize engraved in the icing,” she said Friday morning. “And I got a million valentines!”

In January, Atwell learned that she was one of 50 finalists for the award, which recognizes qualities such as achievement in and out of the classroom, innovative and effective instructional practices, improving access to quality teaching and contributing to public debates on teaching, among others.

Atwell founded the K-8 school in 1990, using royalties from her first book, “In the Middle.”

Faculty at the school develop innovative, effective teaching methods and share them with educators who come from around the world to observe students learning standard subjects such as English, science, math and history.

“The whole purpose of this school is to give other teachers a place to see extraordinary teaching in action, to see innovation in action, and then to have a chance to go off and experience it,” Atwell said in January.

Atwell teaches an English writing-reading workshop, in which students choose the 40 books they will read each year and the topics they will write about producing an average of 20 pieces of publishable writing, according to the school.

Already the winner of two major research awards, Atwell was chosen as one of 50 finalists from among 5,000 nominations from 127 countries. In March, she and the nine other finalists will travel to Dubai to attend the Global Teacher Prize Academy, where a winner will be named on March 15.

Atwell said in January that if she wins, the money would return to the Center for Teaching and Learning to provide more scholarships for students and to buy books.

Thursday’s party at the Center for Teaching and Learning, Atwell said, “was less like a coronation and more like a celebration of the ethos here.”

“It feels like it’s a recognition of the school itself, and the feeling that … the world is noticing [that] this is the way we do things here.”

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