Nancie Atwell

Center for Teaching and Learning, USA


Nancie  Atwell

Nancie discovered a love of books while bedridden with rheumatic fever as a child. She teaches English as a writing-reading workshop, an innovation she first described in her book ‘In The Middle’, now in its third edition (its first two editions sold half a million copies). 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. They experience a volume of practice and the expert response that lead 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 conduct seminars, write professional books and articles, and invite teachers from across the US and other countries to spend a week at the school to experience its methods firsthand. CTL also makes a concerted effort to expose its rural Maine pupils to other cultures and ethnicities, so that they have a chance of becoming global citizens. So far, 97% of CTL graduates have matriculated to university.

Since 1976 Nancie has written 9 books on teaching (with praise from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education), edited 5 collections and delivered 120 keynote addresses on her teaching. Being the first classroom teacher to receive the major research awards in the field of language arts, Nancie has won awards from the Modern Language Association, the International Reading Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English. In 2011 she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of New Hampshire.

If awarded the Prize, Nancie would donate the full amount to the Center for Teaching and Learning to fund tuition assistance, purchase further books and renovate the school grounds.

I’m convinced that teaching language arts is one of the great careers: demanding of time and energy, but meaning-filled, worthwhile, and interesting. I get to demonstrate what is possible, teach what is useful, establish conditions that invite engagement, support the hard work of literary reading and writing, and enjoy the kinds of relationships with adolescents that drew me to education in the first place. What job could be more satisfying?