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Nov 16, 2012

Three Days, Four States, $100,000

"There is no other profession where you can touch so many lives." — Tiffany Lachenmayr

This week, with four ceremonies in three days, the Milken Educator Awards notification team was so busy, it literally had to split itself in two.  Fortunately, they were up for the challenge, surprising educators in both North and South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida.  Between the emotional videos and the many thousands of words’ worth of incredible photos, our storm of notifications that handed out $100,000 in three days created a multimedia avalanche of amazing moments.  In fact, there were so many stunning photos taken by our photographer Paul Bliese, that we had to just share them all on facebook.  If you missed any of them, go look at our photo albums now!  (Don’t worry, we’ll be here when you’re done enjoying them.)

Monday was a national holiday but many schools were open and many teachers—soldiers on the frontline of education—came to work as usual.  For one of them, Shasta Looper of A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School in Greenville, SC, this was a Veterans Day the likes of which she’ll never forget.  Dressed in red white and blue and waving American flags, the emotional impact was instantly clear as Jason Culbertson, executive vice president of school services for the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), called her name.  In an impromptu speech that couldn’t have been better with any amount of prepared scripting, Shasta began by telling the audience “I love to teach and I'm still in the classroom because of the kids.  And days that I go in and I'm not feeling on top of my game, my kids make the biggest difference for me.”  Watch it for yourself, because it only gets better from there.

Speaking at one of the two awards presentations on Tuesday, veteran Milken Educator Mark Tohulka (FL ‘01) shared his observations on the environment that Principal Dr. Kevin Williams creates at Norwood Elementary School in Miami.

"In seeing this school, it comes to me as no surprise that its principal is a Milken Award recipient. From the first contact with a security guard outside, to the polite student escorts and procession of classes to this room, this appears every bit a model school... one to be proud of as its principal."

— Mark Tohulka (FL ’01)

Expertly emceed by our Dr. Jane Foley (IN ’94), the presentation brought Kevin to tears, a likely rare site for his kids, who go to the school and on that day were joined by Kevin’s wife and mom.  A true leader, Kevin was quick to share the honor with the giant educators on whose shoulders he stands.

Sabrina Morgan, the other announced recipient on Tuesday morning, didn’t have her family near when we surprised her at Pearl Lower Elementary School.  She was so overcome at the announcement of her name as our Milken Educator Awards winner from Mississippi, that it took her some time and the support of her students and colleagues just to get up to the podium, where Dr. Gary Stark, president and CEO of NIET, was on hand to present her award.  But who did the joyous, emotional Sabrina want to share that moment with right away?  “Someone call my mom,” she said as she was handed the microphone.  Of course, she had more to say, but you know where to find it by now.  (By the way, Sabrina did call her mom as soon as she got the chance, and our photographer was there to catch it!)

Our fourth and final (for this week) notification was in North Carolina.  There, we honored science and mathematics specialist Tiffany Lachenmayr.  Tiffany applies scientific approaches and mathematic principles to her own performance, tracking and analyzing students’ progress throughout the year.  But lest we mislead you that Tiffany is all numbers and no heart, her award acceptance video should clear that misconception up instantly.  Her students certainly don’t think so, either, if these photos are any indication.

Now that we’ve thanked our four newest Milken Educators, I’d like to thank you, our readers, for the continued responses to the questions we’ve been posing here (“Why do you do it?” and “How do you engage?”).  In fact, we’re so grateful for your responses that next week, we’ll have a special Thanksgiving edition of this newsletter devoted in large part to what you’ve been telling us.  So if you’ve been meaning to send something in, we’d love to include your answers!

Until then, we wish a very wonderful weekend to our newest Milken Educators, our amazing ME Network, and all of you tireless forgers of our nation’s future.


Boris Kievsky
Notifications Newsletter Editor
Manager, Online Communications and Engagement

Keep those comments, quotes and questions coming!   Share them with me by hitting “reply” or emailing, and I’ll share as many as I can with our community.

In this newsletter:  Tiffany (Lachenmayr) Palmer (NC '12)Shasta Looper (SC '12)Sabrina Morgan (MS '12)Dr. Kevin Williams (FL '12)
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