Teacher Eulalia Bourne, whose career spanned more than four decades, taught elementary school in rural areas, mining camps, and Indian reservations throughout Arizona during some of our country’s most challenging periods: World War I, the Depression, and World War II. This women’s libber was ahead of her time, becoming one of the very few women in her day to own and run her own cattle ranch. Eulalia thought outside the box in many ways. Every year on the first day of school she would wear a new dress, usually blue to complement her eye color. Every day after that, she wore jeans, Western-style shirts, cowboy boots, and Stetson hats to class. She was once fired for dancing the one-step, a new jazz dance, at a birthday party some of her students attended, because the clerk of the board considered the dance indecent! She even learned to speak Spanish fluently and, when confronted with non-English-speaking students, taught her classes in Spanish, even though it was against the law to do so. But she is probably best known for producing a little classroom newspaper entitled Little Cowpunchers which featured student writings, drawings, and news stories about classroom events. Today, these little newspapers are recognized as important historical documents of Southern Arizona ranching communities from 1932 to 1943. Additionally, Eulalia published three critically-acclaimed books about her teaching and ranching experiences: Ranch Schoolteacher, Nine Months is a Year at Baboquivari School, and Woman in Levi’s. These volumes, although now out of print, can sometimes be purchased at used book stores and sometimes can be found at online sites featuring royalty-free works. The read is well-worth the search, particularly for those interested in Arizona history.
What honor could be more prestigious than being named a global teacher? Nancie Atwell, a teacher from Edgecomb, Maine, knows. This year, Nancie has been named by the Varkey Foundation as the very first recipient of the Global Teacher Prize, an honor which was been unofficially dubbed the Nobel Prize of teaching.
The Varkey Foundation searched all over the world for “one innovative and caring teacher who has made an inspirational impact on their students and their community.” They looked at thousands of possible winners, and whittled their list of finalists down to ten. When they looked closely at Nancie, they knew they had their winner.
Nancie was presented her award at a ceremony held last May in Dubai, where the Varkey Foundation is based. Among the dignitaries attending the ceremony were President Bill Clinton and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emerates. Speaking at the ceremony, President Clinton said, “I think the most important thing this prize has done is re-awaken the world’s appreciation of the importance of teachers.” Nancie said she was honored to accept the award. “I hope this will invite creative, smart young people to consider teaching as a career,” she expressed. “I hope to convey to young people considering teaching that it’s a privilege,” she continued.
An educator since 1973, Nancy founded the nonprofit Center for Teaching and Learning, a school in rural Maine, in 1990. At the facility, which features a library in every classroom, students read an average of forty books a year, far above the national average. They choose which books they read and then they write prolifically. Students get through dozens of books and write across all genres each year. Many of Nancie’s former students have gone on to become authors. The institution also serves as a demonstration school for developing and disseminating teaching methods. Nancy has donated the $1 million case award that comes with her prize to help pay for the upkeep and development of the school, and for scholarships.
In addition to her work at the Center, Nancie has authored nine books on teaching. Her volume In The Middle: New Understandings About Writing, Reading, and Learning (1987) has sold more than half a million copies.