DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An English teacher from rural Maine won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize on Sunday after 42 years of work as an innovator and pioneer in teaching literature.
Nancie Atwell plans to donate the full amount to the Center for Teaching and Learning, which she founded in 1990 in Edgecomb, Maine, as a nonprofit demonstration school created for the purpose of developing and disseminating teaching methods. The school says 97 percent of its graduates have gone on to a university.
''I really find that I'm validated every day just by the experiences I have with children in the classroom,'' Atwell said after receiving the award.
Atwell was selected from a pool of 1,300 applicants from 127 countries.
The top 10 finalists, which included two other teachers from the United States and others from Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Cambodia, Malaysia, Kenya, and the United Kingdom, were flown to Dubai for the ceremony. The winner was announced by Sunny Varkey, founder of both the nonprofit Varkey Foundation, which focuses on education issues, and the for-profit GEMS Education company, which has more than 130 schools around the world.
After Atwell won the award, a young boy with a book bag strapped to his back waited patiently with his mother for a photograph with the winning teacher.
Varkey said that the award is aimed at fostering that kind of admiration for teachers and to say ''to a celebrity-obsessed world that teachers are important and worthy of respect.''
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and former US president Bill Clinton, who is honorary chairman of the Varkey Foundation, were also on hand to give Atwell the award.
Atwell has received numerous other awards for her innovative approach to teaching. She has authored nine books about teaching, including ''In The Middle,'' which sold more than half a million copies.
''The other recognition I've received has been content-area specific,'' she said. ''This is global . . . this is really an award for a body of work, for a lifetime of teaching.''
Hundreds of teachers have visited her center in Maine over the years to learn its writing and reading practices.
Her school's eighth-grade students read an average of 40 books per year, compared with the national average of about 10.
They also write extensively, and many of her students have gone on to become published authors.