Jessica Villanueva (CA '16) knows she's succeeding when she sees her students take risks without fear of making mistakes: "That's when I know they feel safe, loved and supported."
Teachers put in long hours both inside and away from the classroom, but kindergarten teacher Katherine Shaw (CA '16) knows the ends justify the means: "All the efforts are for someone's child, and that child will be a contributor to our country."
Though Amara Alexander (AL '16) always preferred science to novels, her first job was teaching sixth-grade English. Vampire fiction got her hooked on books. Amara received Alabama's 2016-17 Milken Educator Award at Horizon Elementary School in Madison on November 29, 2017.
Principal Timothy Thomas (AZ '16) has a mountain of administrative responsibilities, but his favorite moments are the ones he spends visiting classrooms: "I love kneeling down next to primary students and having them read for me."
Fourth-grade teacher Amanda Christensen (SD '16) tells her students about the farm chores she did when she was their age, from yard work to caring for cattle and breaking horses: "I want to help them understand that they can do anything."
Lisa Richard (OR '16) loves math because each problem offers so many different paths to the same solution. She focuses her third-graders on the process rather than the answer: "What strategy did you choose?"
Traci Druschke (IN '16) says her Award assembly left a lasting imprint on her school: "The students are proud of me, but they are also proud of each other."
Math and science specialist Tiffany Tynes Curry (OH '16) knows she is succeeding as an educator "when students know how to work past their own expectations."
Thomas Dennison (MD '16) focuses on big ideas and aspirations to help his fifth-grade students figure out who they really are: "I want them to remember that every day offers them a chance to do great things by serving and taking care of others."
Allison Ruhl's favorite thing about her first-grade students is their honesty. "If they love you, they will tell you," says Mississippi's 2016-17 Milken Educator. "And if your hair looks weird one morning, they'll tell you that, too."