Nancie Atwell, an English teacher from Maine in the United States, has been named as the winner of a competition to find the world’s best teacher, with a prize of $1m (£680,000). But Ms Atwell has promised to donate the money from the Global Teacher Prize to the school that she founded.
The prize was created to raise the status of teaching.
The winner of the inaugural Global Teacher Prize, who received her award at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday, was recognised for her work in teaching reading and writing.
On receiving the award, she said it was a “privilege” to work as a teacher and to help young people.
Giving away the prize money was “not being selfless, but being committed to public service”, she said.
Former US president, Bill Clinton, told the audience that he could still remember almost all the names of his teachers and that the prize would help to remind the public of the importance of the profession.
It was “critically important” to “attract the best people into teaching” and to hold them in “high regard”, said Mr Clinton.
In 1990, Ms Atwell founded a school, the Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine, where ideas for improving the teaching of reading and writing could be tested and shared.
This school, which will receive Ms Atwell’s prize cash, has a library in every room and pupils read an average of 40 books a year.
She is also a prolific author, with nine books published about teaching, including In The Middle, which sold half a million copies.
The award has been created by the Varkey Foundation, the charitable arm of the GEMS education group, as a high-profile way of demonstrating the importance of teaching.
The attention-grabbing top prize is meant to show that teaching should be recognised as much as other high-paying careers, such as finance or sport.
“We introduced the prize in order to return teachers to their rightful position, belonging to one of the most respected professions in society,” said Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation.
The prize is “not only about money, it’s also about unearthing thousands of stories of inspiration”, he said.