"Just over 10 years ago, you began awarding the Milken Educator Award in South Dakota. In my mind, I can still see the article and photo in the newspaper about Karen Lukens, the recipient from my school district. When Karen won her award, I thought, 'Wow. That's something I would love to achieve.'
"I have not worked hard in this, my life's calling, to win awards. But awards do inspire people. Even more than becoming a Milken Educator, I have wanted to be a teacher like Karen Lukens. I have wanted to provide students with the skills they need to even have their dreams available to them. I have wanted to share books that inspire students to know themselves and others better so they might have more compassion and give more grace. I have wanted to create a sense of community in this big school that would mirror the small, rural school where I grew up. I saw that those desires were part of Karen's mission, and I was inspired to be the very best teacher I could be for my students and for my community....I am proof that the Milken [Award] not only recognizes teachers but inspires them."
Gina Benz (SD '15) Teacher
Connections amplifies the voices of Milken Educators by focusing attention on the work and experiences of excellent educators across the nation. Through articles written by and about the work of Milken Educators, as well as features exploring classroom technology, strategies, education news and more, Connections sparks meaningful conversations about education.