Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: Abby Turbak (SD '22)

January 27, 2023

1000w McKinley Abby Turbak students2

First grade teacher Abby Turbak (SD ’22) doesn’t remember teachers building meaningful relationships with her when she was a student. That’s part of what motivated her to pursue education: “I wanted to be THAT teacher for my kids.” Abby received South Dakota’s 2022-23 Milken Educator Award at McKinley Elementary in Watertown on December 2, 2022.

Milken Family Foundation: Technology plays a large role in your classroom. Why is it important for students to work with technology in early grades?

Abby Turbak (SD ’22): Technology is constantly changing, and it’s in their hands and at their disposal nonstop, so why not use it to our advantage? The kids enjoy it and it keeps them motivated.

MFF: What do you like about working with elementary students?

Abby: They are the best! I love how innocent they are and that they come to school excited and happy.

1000w SD Abby Turbak Spotlight quote

MFF: How did you end up in education?

Abby: I wanted to help kids — help kids learn, help kids grow, help kids become kind individuals.

MFF: Who are your role models?

Abby: I never had a favorite teacher or one that I remember having a great relationship with. I had many great teachers growing up, but one doesn’t stick out. That was another reason I wanted to be a teacher: I wanted to be that teacher for my kids.

MFF: How did your first year of teaching go?

Abby: My first year of teaching was the same year I was getting my master’s degree. During that process I had a mentor teacher to help me through the ups and downs a first-year teacher deals with. That was very helpful. I always had someone to ask questions and bounce ideas off of.

1000w McKinley Abby Turbak calls sister

MFF: You frequently mentor new and pre-service teachers. Why?

Abby: I just want to be able to help. I enjoy helping people. I try to give them resources, and then they can decide how to use them. If they want to come observe, I don’t mind.

MFF: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?

Abby: I was definitely surprised! I remember thinking, “Wow, someone is going to get $25,000!” I never thought that it was going to be me. When they called my name I just remember looking over at my students in shock. And that I couldn’t stop shaking and sweating afterwards.

MFF: How did students respond to your Milken Award?

Abby: My students were pumped. Past and present students were so excited for me and continue to tell me how awesome it is to win the money.

1000w McKinley Abby Turbak reaction

MFF: Any plans for the $25,000?

Abby: Finish paying off undergrad and graduate school from 10-plus years ago.

MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?

Abby: Success is when you make progress and students don’t feel as frustrated. All students come into your classroom with different knowledge and backgrounds. I feel successful when I can take students where they are and move them forward.

MFF: What do you hope students remember from their time with you?

Abby: I hope students remember that I love them. All of them!

1000w McKinley Abby Turbak check


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