Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum yesterday honoured winners of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize in a ceremony held at the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai.
Present were H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Marine Sports Club, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister for Cabinet Affairs and Khalifa Saeed Sulaiman, Director General of Dubai Protocol and Hospitality Department.
In a speech made at the event, Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State and Chairperson of Dubai Cares said that thanks to Sheikh Mohammed's guidance and directives, Dubai Cares managed to provide education to 13 million children in 88 countries.
Nancie Atwell, a teacher at The Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine, United States, has 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, 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 recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
Nancie Atwell was presented the prize at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) 2015 in Dubai, by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, President Bill Clinton, Honorary Chairman of the Varkey Foundation and Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey Foundation, in front of dignitaries, education ministers, international education experts and global business leaders.
Nancie was chosen from ten finalists by a global academy made up of prominent individuals including academy award winning actor Kevin Spacey; Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Cares; social activist Geoffrey Canada; entrepreneur Baroness Martha Lane Fox; Carina Wong, Deputy Director College Ready, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Wendy Kopp, CEO Teach for All; Brett Wigdortz, Founder and CEO of Teach First; Grammy award winning musician Esperanza Spalding and Jiang Xueqin, Deputy Principal, Tsinghua International School China.
The prize was set up to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people's lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of millions of teachers all over the world.
Nancie Atwell discovered a love of books while bedridden with rheumatic fever as a child. She teaches English as a writing-reading workshop. In her workshop, students choose the subjects they write about and the books they read: an average of 20 pieces of publishable writing and 40 books each year. Her students experience a volume of practice that leads to engagement, stamina, and skill. In 1990, Nancie founded the Center for Teaching and Learning, a non-profit demonstration school created for the purpose of developing and disseminating effective classroom practices. The faculty conducts seminars, publishes professional books and articles, and invites teachers from across the US and other countries to spend a week at the school to experience its methods first hand. A teacher since 1973, Nancie has written nine books, edited five collections, and delivered hundreds of keynote addresses and workshops about her teaching.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said: "Honouring the world's best teacher is a truly pioneering idea. Celebrating teachers is celebrating development, progress and our future."
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 fulfilment, 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 centre 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 recognises 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 recognising 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 realise 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."
Since the prize was launched in March 2014 it has received huge global support, including public backing from world leaders Queen Rania of Jordan, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The Italian PM recently invited top 50 shortlisted candidate Daniela Boscolo to speak at his school reform event in Rome. Turkish Education Minister Nabi Avci recently met top 50 shortlisted candidate Dilek Livaneli to better understand her high impact teaching methods. Official congratulatory billboards were also placed at bus stops in her home town of Samsun. Other Education Ministers from around the world have also met and sent messages of support to their respective top 50 shortlisted candidates.
The top ten finalists were narrowed down from the top 50 shortlisted candidates, which were chosen from over 5,000 nominations and 1,300 final applications from 127 countries including the US, UK, Italy, Kenya, Uganda, India, Afghanistan, Australia, Argentina Mexico and Jordan, amongst others.