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Making Jobs "Job 1" Earns Principal Adam Gehlhar $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Iraq War veteran and vocational learning guru brings working-world focus to Jamestown High School

November 21, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif.,  — When it comes to connecting education to the workplace, Adam Gehlhar believes in really working it. Whether he's getting students internships with attorneys, engineers and architects, or boosting STEM education through Project Based Learning, Gehlhar has his fingers on the pulse of the practical when it comes to secondary education.

But it was Gehlhar's pulse that was racing this morning at a student assembly in the Jamestown High School auditorium where he was awarded a $25,000 Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Superintendent of the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler. Gehlhar is the only winner of the unrestricted cash award from North Dakota this year, and is among up to 45 Milken Educator Award honorees for 2017-18.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

Known as a visionary leader at Jamestown high, Gehlhar balances bold and ambitious ideas with the practical communication and capacity-building skills required to execute them. Gehlhar has been a magnet for creative educators and innovation throughout the region, studying emerging educational methods and bringing best practices back to teachers.

"Adam Gehlhar is an educator who is all about connecting educational theory and knowledge to the real world of work, and promoting the gritty hands-on experience of instilling and precipitating excellence in students and colleagues," said Foley. "Not surprisingly for a man who spent two tours in Iraq clearing roadside bombs, Gehlhar is bold and direct, which is the kind of leadership we champion in our Milken Educators. We applaud his aspirational yet down-to-earth contributions to secondary education at Jamestown."

"Having met principal Gehlhar several years ago when he was a teacher, I immediately recognized his energy, his vision, his innovative approach to making sure that he was reaching students where they needed to be met, and his determination to expand their learning," said Baesler. "Gehlhar always encouraged his students to be curious and not be afraid to fail, but instead to really learn from that failure experience, establishing that sense of grit and rigor that we all need in our life. I'm proud to say that all of these extraordinary qualities combined have made principal Gehlhar as one of our best young educators."

"Mr. Gehlhar is a very innovative principal who understands how important growth and change are for a school, and enacts that in part by putting a premium on building relationships and encouraging inclusiveness," said Jamestown Public School District Superintendent Robert Lech. "There is no question that the Jamestown School District is fortunate to have such a brilliant educator."

About Milken Educator Adam Gehlhar
Gehlhar, now in his second year as principal of North Dakota's Jamestown High School, knows how important it is for students to connect what they learn every day with the working world. In West Fargo, where he previously served as a teacher and administrator, Gehlhar organized "You're Hired," a day-long activity in which teams of students tackled real-world problems using the engineering design process. Gehlhar invited members of the local business community, along with teachers, administrators and parents, to listen to the students talk about their collaborative solutions and methods. He also created a high school internship program through which students have worked for attorneys, chiropractors, engineers and architects. A similar program is now in the works at Jamestown.

Gehlhar's passion for helping students connect their classroom learning with the working world stems from an internship of his own. In 2012, through the Greater Fargo/Moorhead Economic Development Corp.'s Teachers in Industry program, Gehlhar studied lean engineering at a large health care company in Fargo.

In addition to strongly advocating Project Based Learning (PBL) and promoting innovative approaches to education, he also delivered a popular TEDx talk, "Redefine Learning," which challenged educators to embrace PBL. Gehlhar also created partnerships with North Dakota State University and farm and construction equipment manufacturers Bobcat Co. and Titan Machinery Inc.

At Jamestown, Gehlhar has supported best instructional practices, including research-based instructional strategies, site-based leadership teams and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support. He spends hours each week observing classrooms and providing teachers with specific, actionable feedback. As part of his commitment to continuous learning, Gehlhar has presented to staff about innovative education and learning targets, and one of his first initiatives was reworking the schedule to allow time for professional learning communities for all Jamestown staff.

Gehlhar led the district's STEM committee in West Fargo and has been active at the state level within the STEM Network. In both West Fargo and Jamestown, he introduced PAGE (Peer Alliance for Gender Equity), a federally funded program that focuses on creating gender and socioeconomic equity, closing the achievement gap and providing STEM opportunities in underserved populations. A decorated U.S. Army veteran, Gehlhar served two combat tours in Iraq clearing roadside bombs. He spent more than a decade in the Army National Guard.

Gehlhar is an alumnus of North Dakota State University, earning a Bachelor's degree in social science education in 2008 and a Master's degree in educational leadership for secondary administration in 2011.

More information about Gehlhar, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/Adam-Gehlhar.

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Gehlhar's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2017-18 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 20-23, 2018. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children's education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards, www.twitter.com/milken, www.youtube.com/milkenaward, and http://instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 30 years ago 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.

Jana Rausch
Communications Director
310-570-4774 Office 310-435-9259 Cell
 

Lynne Russo 
(818) 903-6079 cell; 
russolynne@yahoo.com


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