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Shreveport, Louisiana, Social Studies Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award
October 27, 2015
SANTA MONICA, CA – Shreveport history teacher John Lary stands out at C.E. Byrd High School by biking to school each day, sporting dress slacks and his signature bowtie, before carrying his bike upstairs to his second- floor classroom. On Tuesday morning, he stood out a little bit more when he was surprised with a Milken Educator Award and $25,000 during a schoolwide assembly.
Lary was given the surprise of his life when he was presented with the distinct navy blue envelope by Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken in front of his principal, colleagues, students, staff and distinguished community members.
For the next six months, in up to 40 schools around the U.S., outstanding middle and high school educators will receive the Milken Educator Award and an unrestricted cash prize of $25,000.
“As an exemplary teacher of history, John Lary is preparing his students to become responsible citizens in an ever-changing world and for them to understand, to question and to defend our democratic way of life and change the world for the better,” Milken said. “Through his expertise in making the past relevant to our lives today, John’s students learn to take ownership over their responsibility for the future.”
“We’re very proud of John and what he has done to earn this extraordinary and well-deserved distinction,” said Louisiana Superintendent John White. “What he has done in the classroom to inspire his students is remarkable. John is a teacher other educators can look up to and should emulate.”
Lary is the kind of teacher who picks out the smart, but academically unmotivated, student and bluntly tells the student how much potential they have and that he will not let it go to waste. Lary, who teaches European and U.S. History, has an infectious love of history and teaching. Students can’t help but immerse themselves in the subject matter in his presence.
But he’s a tough teacher. As an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Louisiana Tech University, Lary knows all too well the demands of college classes and expects his students to perform at and beyond collegiate levels. Every course he offers at this time is dual enrollment for college credit and Advanced Placement, which presents not only rigor, but also national standards for course framework.
Even with his high expectations, Lary has attracted a student following which began with 30 students in his first year taking the chance on his AP European History class to a program that is bursting at the seams with 198 students this year. He has been instrumental in pushing students to take AP exams, resulting in a nearly 500% increase in the number of students scoring a 3 or above. In 2011-12, 46 students took an AP test. The number increased to 289 during the 2013-14 school year.
At Byrd, he has revived and sponsors the Gayarre History Club. Each year, the club requests student essay submissions from high school-aged students throughout Caddo Parish Public Schools. Submissions are judged by a group of students and teachers, with accepted proposals read at an annual conference and published in paperback for purchase on Amazon. Both are the brainchild of Lary and serve as one example of the numerous ways he goes above and beyond for his students.
Even outside the traditional classroom, he is not one to pass up on a teaching moment. When former President Jimmy Carter visited Shreveport last fall for a community evening event, Lary took his club. As thousands packed into the city’s auditorium, Lary was front and center discussing Carter’s presidency and the scene it set for future presidents.
Prior to his work at Byrd, he built rural North Caddo Magnet High School’s history dual enrollment program from the ground up and went on to become social studies department chair.
Lary received a Bachelor of Arts in history in 2005 and a Master of Arts in History of Culture and Ideas in 2007 from Louisiana Tech University.
The Milken Educator Awards program, which was launched by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987, has been described as “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher magazine. Recipients are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.
Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Milken Awards are sourced through each participating state department of education, which appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to confidentially review candidates for recommendation to MFF.
This year, MFF is launching a #MyTeacherRocks Instagram campaign that encourages students to take selfies with their favorite teacher and describe in the caption why their teacher is special. To enter the contest, entrants are asked to follow @MilkenFamilyFdn on Instagram, post their selfie to their individual account and use the #MyTeacherRocks and #MilkenAward hashtags. The three photos with the most “likes” will be selected in November 2015, and February and April 2016.
To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.
The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, were launched 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.