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After Winning $1 Million “Nobel Prize For Teaching”, Maine Educator Convicted Of Shoplifting

November 28, 2018

A Maine educator who was the first-ever winner of the $1 million Global Teacher Award, the so-called “Nobel Prize for Teaching,” has cited mental illness and alcoholism for actions that led to her arrest and conviction for shoplifting.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Nancie Atwell, 67, of Southport, ME and the founder of the Center for Teaching and Learning, received a four-month suspended sentence and 250 hours of community service. The sentence was handed down by District Court Judge Paul Mathews. The sentence also includes one year of administrative leave, a probation-like requirement, the Press Herald reports

Atwell pleaded guilty to six counts of shoplifting, the paper said, telling the court that psychiatric therapy had revealed a mental illness akin to bipolar disorder that compelled her to steal. She also admitted to suffering from alcoholism.

3 years ago, Atwell received the Varkey Foundation’s $1 million prize for her work as an educator and teacher-trainer. It is reported she donated her winnings to the Center for Teaching and Learning, the private K-8 school she founded in Edgecomb in 1990.

NewsCenter Maine reports the educator told the court “therapy and medication are helping her fight the mental illness that drove her to steal.” NewsCenter Maine quotes Atwell in her address to the court:

“It’s been more than a year since I felt the urge to shoplift, or to drink alcohol. I’m committed to never drinking and never shoplifting again. I’m also committed to psychotherapy and medication that have given me my life back. I’m committed to the work of being well and doing good in the world.”

Both the Press Herald and NewsCenter Maine report that Lincoln County Assistant District Attorney Katherine MacRae “recommended seven days in jail” for Atwell, but the judge considered Atwell’s long history of community service and her attempts to overcome her illness in his more lenient sentence.

Atwell received her $1 million award from the international Varkey Foundation in a 2015 ceremony in Dubai, with former President Bill Clinton in attendance.

In addition to her work as an educator, Atwell has written several books, including In The Middle, which has been described as “the greatest book on literacy teaching ever written in this country,” with over 500,000 copies sold.




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