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Cheyenne's Aaron Kruger Earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Helping History Students Excel
Governor Mark Gordon, First Lady Jennie Gordon and State Superintendent Brian Schroeder join Milken Family Foundation to honor Central High School teacher for bringing history to life
Oprah Winfrey congratulates Milken Educators in heartwarming video message as 'light in this world'
March 25, 2022
Santa Monica, Calif., — Thanks to Aaron Kruger, history is a popular topic at Laramie County School District 1’s Central High School in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Kruger empowers open discussion, fosters critical thinking and promotes the cross-disciplinary skills students need for success in high school and beyond. In fact, his students regularly excel, especially in his Advanced Placement courses, where scores on the AP World History exam consistently surpass state and global pass rates.
But the celebration of success turned to Kruger at a surprise school assembly this morning where he was presented with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award surrounded by cheering colleagues, students, education officials and media. Governor Mark Gordon, First Lady Jennie Gordon and Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder joined Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher to present the national recognition.
Kruger is among more than 60 honorees nationwide to receive the honor during the 2021-22 season. He will join nearly 2,800 award-winning educators and education leaders as a member of the Milken Educator Network, dedicated to excellence in education.
"One of an educator's greatest gifts is making content relevant to everyday life, thereby deepening their students’ understanding of purpose and impact in today’s world," said Gallagher. "Aaron Kruger is clearly passing along a passion for self-discovery and lifelong learning to the next generation, and it's one of the many reasons why we’re proud to welcome him as a Milken Educator."
"A hearty congratulations to Aaron Kruger for being named a Milken Educator. What an obvious gift for teaching he possesses — and what an obvious treasure he is to his students," said Brian Schroeder, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. "With Aaron's love of the subject matter, his engaging classroom teaching methods, and his measured, professional approach, he certainly sets the bar high for all who teach. The fact that there is a waiting list to get into his classes not only speaks volumes, but is the highest compliment a student can pay a teacher. What an inspiration – and I would have definitely waited in line to take his history class, too. Thank you, Aaron, for your incredible contribution to your students as well as to American education."
Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The Awards are not designated for lifetime achievement. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award.
Oprah, a longtime education advocate, shared her congratulations to this year's recipients in a video message thanking "the most incredible educators around the country" and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the "tireless work" they do.
More About Aaron Kruger
Classroom Practices: Kruger's classes are so engaging that world history and current events classes often have waiting lists, especially AP World History. Kruger introduces primary source documents, has students embody historical figures for role-playing exercises, and emphasizes the writing skills that pupils need to advance successfully in school and life. Kruger's classes cover topics that might lead to heated discussions, but his thoughtful lessons respect multiple perspectives.
Collaborative Leadership: Kruger has served as department chair, sat on the building leadership and collaborative decision-making teams, and reworked the district’s world history curriculum. He is methodical and measured, a quiet leader. Inspired by Rick Wormeli’s "Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom," Kruger started a thoughtful conversation with his colleagues about the benefits of offering students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning — a dialogue that has created true change within the school and administration.
Whole-Child Approach: Kruger is determined to help students hone their skills and grow, both in and out of the classroom. He involves students in the process of improving his practice, coupling research on new instructional strategies with feedback from the teens in his classes. Kruger has coached multiple sports, always focused on continuous improvement and skill acquisition rather than the scoreboard. A constant and comforting presence in the hallways, Kruger is always available to help students before and after school. Many cite him as their inspiration for achieving AP Capstone designation and going on to college after graduation.
Education: Kruger earned a bachelor's in secondary education from the University of Wyoming in 2004.
More About the Milken Educator Awards: "The future belongs to the educated."
Along with the financial prize, Milken Educator Award recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.
- The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFFs) mentoring program, in which freshman Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice.
- Over the years, more than $140 million in funding, including $70 million for the individual cash awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers.
- Veteran Milken Educators frequently go on to serve in leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
- "We find you. You don't find us!" Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.
- The $25,000 cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.
To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward).
For more information, visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.
About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. The awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at MFF.org.