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Cody, Wyoming, Principal Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Cody High School's Nathan Tedjeske receives "Oscar of Teaching" for tremendous dedication to students, colleagues and community members

May 01, 2024

Cody, Wyo. — Surprise! The assembly that Cody High School Principal Nathan Tedjeske had busily been planning to welcome Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder turned into a celebration in his honor! 

Today Tedjeske received the Milken Educator Award, a prestigious national honor hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," which recognizes exceptional educators for their outstanding dedication to excellence in education. Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop, joined by Superintendent Degenfelder, presented the Award to Tedjeske in front of cheering students, colleagues, dignitaries and media. The Award includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize that recipients may use however they choose. 

"Nathan Tedjeske is a strong leader, relationship-builder and advocate for securing a bright future for Cody's students," said Bishop, who is a 2001 Virginia Milken Educator herself. "We salute Nathan for the positive impact he is making on his students, staff and the broader community. Congratulations, Nathan, and welcome to our national Milken Educator Network!" 

Tedjeske is the second and final 2023-24 Wyoming Milken Educator Award recipient this season. He joins Megan Park, principal of Gannett Peak Elementary School in Lander, who was honored on March 12. Tedjeske's announcement concludes the 2023-24 national Milken Educator Awards tour recognizing 68 exceptional elementary and secondary educators. 

"It has been such a pleasure to get to know Principal Tedjeske during my first year in office," said Superintendent Degenfelder. "His work to prepare students for individual pathways and real-world experiences rather than a traditional one-size-fits-all approach is truly unmatched. Congratulations!"

Tedjeske's event is part of the Milken Family Foundation's Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. 2024 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to "Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate" the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career.

More About Nathan Tedjeske 

Innovative Initiatives Prepare Students for the Future: Cody High School (CHS) Principal Nathan Tedjeske works to ensure students have access to exceptional learning experiences that prepare them for college, career and life. The former principal of nearby Cody Middle School, Tedjeske set a standard of leadership and positive change that he carried with him to CHS. 

Through innovative approaches like "high-impact Fridays," Tedjeske provides students with the opportunity to accelerate student learning toward grade-level benchmarks as well as take advantage of sample career and technical education (CTE) classes. With an emphasis on high-quality teaching aligned to Wyoming performance and content standards, as well as ACT prep classes for college-bound students, Tedjeske helps students build a strong foundation for future success. Additionally, Tedjeske's strategic planning and partnership with local business leaders – which he started as principal of Cody Middle School – continue to grow internship and apprenticeship opportunities for CHS students. 

Tedjeske is known for creating tangible, real-world learning opportunities starting at young ages. At Cody Middle School, he shepherded the creation of an innovation center to include a drone lab, digital recording studio, and a manufacturing space. Among key projects were student-driven podcasts featuring the likes of Wyoming First Lady Jennie Gordon and District Superintendent Vernon Orndorff; the creation of digital videos and music; student artwork; clothing manufacturing; and 3D printing. Tedjeske facilitated a Fine Arts Exploratory Gala showcasing the students' work, complete with a student-compiled soundtrack and silent auction to sell the student art. 

Far-Reaching Leadership: Tedjeske's influence and leadership extend to the Cody community. Active at the district level, Tedjeske is involved with the Level Up Leadership group, the Wyoming Principal Mentor program, Park County School District 6 Policy Committees and the Cody Education Association Committee. He attends legislative sessions for state policy at the Capitol, and engages in meaningful conversations with community members to gather feedback and foster relationships. His efforts support Park County School District 6's Classroom 2 Careers initiative, and Governor Mark Gordon's Reimagining and Innovating the Delivery of Education (RIDE) initiative overall, dedicated to elevating Wyoming’s primary and secondary education system. 

Education: Tedjeske earned his Bachelor of Arts in secondary education and social studies from Waynesburg University in 2013 and his Master of Arts in educational administration from Grand Canyon University in 2018. 

More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: "The Future Belongs to the Educated" 

  • The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles next month, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.
  • Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children. 

Follow the Milken Educator Awards tour and use the #MEA3K and #MilkenAward hashtags on: Facebook (MilkenEducatorAwards) | X (Milken) | YouTube (MilkenAward) | Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn) | LinkedIn (MilkenFamilyFdn) | TikTok (MilkenAward).

Visit or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772 for more information.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Created by philanthropist and education visionary Lowell Milken, 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 Milken Family Foundation celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at