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Oct 18, 2013

Lowell Milken Presents Two Awards, Delivers One Message to Students

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“We are giving you this award because we believe that you have the potential to accomplish even greater things in the future…We want to thank you as a society; I want to thank you as an individual for making teaching your chosen career. Congratulations!” — Lowell MilkenMilken Family Foundation Chairman

Dear Champions of Education,

This Thursday, in one incredibly productive day, Milken Family Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken and the Milken Educator Awards crew went to two schools in two states to personally welcome and honor two outstanding educators. The message of gratitude to all of the passionate, hard-working and talented educators in America is clear and worth repeating. But there’s a second part to that message that goes to the students; an underlying motive to this recognition program that Lowell started over 25 years ago: that we need them to reach their greatest potential and become the teachers and leaders of tomorrow.

mea 10182013 image02The first new Milken Educator to be welcomed by Lowell, along with eight veteran Milken Educators and several high-profile guests including Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, was fine arts teacher Brad LeDuc of Washburn Rural High School in Topeka. Brad, whose art students have been winning top national competitions and awards, was so unsure how to react to Lowell calling his name that he did a literal double take (video). Fortunately, he had time to compose himself as each of the eight Kansas Milken Educators in attendance offered their congratulations, encouragement and glimpse of what’s ahead for him now. Michael Berndt (KS '12) opened by welcoming Brad “to such an elite group and family.” Bradley Nicks (KS '09) summed up the sentiments of many with the words “This award is going to change your life.”

Governor Brownback, who points to a teacher in his own life that helped him become who he is today, issued a challenge to the students of Washburn Rural: take advantage of the opportunity that great teachers offer you; make the most of your education and your potential.

With a morning like that, the day—the entire week—could already be called a success. But there was another stop that the team had to make before heading back to California: a school that has made national headlines for devastating tragedy and incredible comeback success. After a tornado completely destroyed Joplin High School and much of the town itself, it was up to the educators to create a sense of stability and safety for the students; and they did. They worked harder than ever before to rebuild the school and rebuild the community that it represented. We couldn’t honor each of them but by honoring one, we hope to have honored them all.

mea 10182013 image01Tobin Schultz is many things. He is a social studies teacher, a football coach, a mentor to other teachers and, in a word, a leader. Whether it’s Tobin’s success in the classroom that translates into success in the greater community or vice versa is debatable, but one thing is clear: he has been incredibly effective in both. Rather than oversimplifying his achievements in this newsletter, you should visit Tobin’s profile page and get the full story with links to his surprise video and photos.

Several veteran Milken Educators were on hand to welcome Tobin as well. It appears that Kansas Educators Christa McNally (KS ’96) and Connie Welsh Neale (KS ’92) couldn’t get to Topeka, so they came to Joplin, MO, instead. Also in attendance was Dr. Angie Besendorfer (MO ’96). Angie reflected on the impact the Award had on her: “When I won, I was just a young teacher and I felt ‘oh my gosh, someone is thinking I'm doing something good, so I guess I need to.’” Today, Angie is the assistant superintendent of Joplin Schools Disctrict and played a vital role in Joplin High School’s comeback.

Tireless educators like Tobin, who couldn’t imagine letting his students down even in the face of a game-changing natural disaster; and Brad, who works with both gifted and struggling students, not just getting them through high school but into college—with scholarships—make the greatest difference in a young person’s scholastic education and future potential. With innovation and globalization quickening the pace of industry and civilization alike, every student deserves and needs to take advantage of the greatest chance they have to succeed.

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"You will be the first generation in our nation who will find yourselves in fierce competition with emerging economies around the world. So it is essential for each one of you to get a high quality education. The single most important school-related factor in the quality of the education you receive is the quality of the teacher in the classroom." — Lowell Milken

That is the message that Lowell Milken went out to deliver to every student in the Kansas, Missouri and around the nation. We’ll keep delivering that message to over 30 more schoools this year (and over 30 Milken Educators in the process). You can help by joining us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and/or subscribing to our YouTube channel and lending your voice to the cause.

Thank you.

Boris Kievsky
Newsletter Editor
Manager, Online Communications and Engagement
Milken Family Foundation

In this newsletter:  Dr. Connie (Welsh) Neale (KS '92)Michael Berndt (KS '12)Dr. Angie Besendorfer (MO '96)Brad LeDuc (KS '13)Christy McNally (KS '96)Lowell Milken Brad Nicks (KS '09)Tobin Schultz (MO '13)
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