Nancie Atwell, a teacher at The Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine, United States, has today been named as the first ever winner of the one million dollar Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, awarded under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.
Widely referred to as the Nobel Prize for teaching, the US$1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize is the largest prize of its kind and was set up to recognize one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
Nancie Atwell said,“I’m honored and proud to receive the Global Teacher Prize. I celebrate it in the company of the nine extraordinary colleagues who have been a part of this journey: Kiran Bir Sethi, Guy Etienne, Jacque Kahura, Phalla Neang, Stephen Ritz, Azizullah Royesh, Madenjit Singh, Richard Spencer, and Naomi Volain.
“I love my teaching life–the intellectual, social, and personal challenges of working with young people and the satisfaction of developing methods that transform their lives and give them perspective on the lives of others. I am grateful to the Varkey Foundation for shining a light on teaching as a powerful profession, one of fulfillment, creativity, and lasting worth.”
Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey Foundation, said,“I want to congratulate Nancie Atwell for being the very first recipient of the Global Teacher Prize. Your incredible story will shine a light on the tireless work that teachers do all over the world.
“We all need to find ways of collectively celebrating teachers, of saying to a celebrity-obsessed world that teachers are important and worthy of respect.
“Right now we need teachers more than ever. We need great teachers to grow great minds or we will never tackle the problems facing the world, from global poverty to climate change.
“It is appropriate this prize is given in the UAE, a center for education excellence. We are truly honoured to have H.H Sheikh Mohammed as both the inspiration and patron for the Prize.”
President Bill Clinton, Honorary Chairman of the Varkey Foundation, said, “Attracting the best people to teaching, developing and supporting their skills, and holding them in high regard would lift learning levels all around the world.”
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said,“I count my teachers as among the most influential people in my life. Teachers are entrusted with nurturing the potential of the young and helping them blossom as productive and responsible members of society. It is hard to underestimate their value.
“I applaud the launch of the Global Teacher Prize, which recognizes their worth. The award is in line with my Global Education First Initiative, launched in 2012, which aims to give momentum to the worldwide movement to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning and foster global citizenship.”
Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “We were so excited by the plans to launch the Global Teacher Prize. I want to congratulate all ten finalists for their inspiring work. I also want to recognise the leadership of Sunny Varkey, Founder of GEMS Education, who had the idea for this prize and is a great partner for our Foundation.”
Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Cares said, “Teachers not only facilitate the learning process of children but also do so much more than that – they inspire dreams, they encourage creativity and they give wings to ambition. They are the backbone of the educational system and without their determination, support and passion, we would not be making huge strides in ensuring education for all today. By recognizing their efforts, The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize celebrates the shapers of future generations.”
Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey, who sits on the Global Teacher Prize Academy that chooses the final winner, said, “When I was starting out, I was inspired by an older, more experienced actor, who told me that he thought I ought to go into acting professionally. That’s the kind of mentoring and personal support that every young person needs to realize his or her potential.
“It’s the kind of encouragement and guidance that good teachers give to their pupils every day. And that is why I support the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize. However much we achieve in life, we all began learning the basics from a teacher in a classroom. Those that teach – devoting their talents and time to nurturing the talents of others – deserve to be respected and celebrated.”
The top ten finalists are:
Azizullah Royesh, Marefat High School, Kabul, Afghanistan
Kiran Bir Sethi, The Riverside School, Ahmedabad, India
Guy Etienne, College Catts Pressoir, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Jacqueline Jumbe-Kahura, Bofa Primary school, Kilifi, Kenya
Nancie Atwell, The Center for Teaching and Learning, Edgecomb, Maine, USA
Naomi Volain, Springfield Central High School, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA
Phalla Neang, Phnom Penh Thmey, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Madenjit Singh, GDI – SOLS 247 School (in Cambodia), Malaysia
Richard Spencer, Middlesbrough College, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
Stephen Ritz, Public School 55, Bronx, New York, USA