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Tyler Hallstedt Makes History as First in Wilson County Schools to Receive Milken Educator Award and $25,000 Cash Prize

Governor Bill Lee joins in congratulating Mt. Juliet Middle School social studies teacher for nurturing young minds by bringing history to life

April 07, 2022

Santa Monica, Calif., — Mt. Juliet Middle School social studies teacher Tyler Hallstedt is a planner. He creates meticulous lessons for his eighth grade students, always providing backstory to make learning relevant and asking probing questions to broaden their minds. As a professional learning leader, Hallstedt guides fellow teachers on how to prepare for observations and coaching conversations. Yet nothing could have prepared Hallstedt for today's life-changing moment when he was called up to accept a national Milken Educator Award before cheering students, appreciative colleagues, state and local officials, and media. 

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn joined Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley to present Hallstedt with the prestigious recognition. The Award includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize to be used however he chooses. 

Hallstedt is the first Award recipient from Wilson County Schools and among more than 60 across the country who will receive the honor during the 2021-22 season. He will join more than 2,800 educators and leaders that form the national Milken Educator Network dedicated to strengthening K-12 education. 

"Engagement and enthusiasm are evident in Tyler Hallstedt's classroom. Tyler not only brings history to life for his students, but also deepens their understanding as productive citizens," said Dr. Foley, who herself is a Milken Educator from Indiana’s 1994 class. "His ability to guide higher-order thinking and make connections across the curriculum has served him well as a leader in professional learning at the school and district levels. I congratulate Tyler and welcome him into the national Milken Educator Network of excellence." 

"Tennessee's educators play a critical role in ensuring students are prepared for life beyond the classroom," said Governor Lee. "I commend Tyler for the profound impact he's made on the Wilson County community and congratulate him on this high honor." 

"Parents hope that their student's teacher can help inspire a love of learning, and in his Mt. Juliet Middle School classroom, Tyler Hallstedt truly brings social studies to life," said Commissioner Schwinn. "Whether students are writing letters in historical contexts or studying the political process, Mr. Hallstedt has a creative, inspirational and passionate approach to his work that helps him connect with his students and support their learning in a meaningful way. Congratulations to Mr. Tyler Hallstedt for this prestigious recognition of becoming a Milken Educator." 

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 Tyler Hallstedt

Enthusiasm in the Classroom: Tyler Hallstedt's eighth graders have so much fun in his class, they don't even realize they’re learning. His lessons relate history to the present: Hallstedt is intentional about making these connections and is persistent in helping students grasp the material on a deep level. He challenges students and encourages debate, incorporating friendly competition via Kahoot! games as he covers and assesses standards. Hallstedt engages every student with deft use of technology and hands-on activities. Students write letters and journals from the point-of-view of indentured servants, colonists and pioneers on the Oregon Trail; write Constitutional amendments and advocate for their passage; and create their own colonies with school, community laws and varying demographics. In 2020, Hallstedt timed his constitutional law unit to coincide with the Presidential inauguration. He pushes them to consider how they relate to each other not just as classmates, but also as people and Americans. Hallstedt maintains a careful balance, letting students speak their minds while gently reminding them that they have more to learn. These methods deliver — Hallstedt's students consistently excel on district-administered benchmark assessments. 

A Culture of Professional Learning: Hallstedt leads the school's eighth grade social studies team and professional learning community. He led a districtwide effort to collect high-quality social studies instructional materials, an effort that introduced innovative instructional strategies to both new and veteran teachers. Hallstedt is a team player who steps in when he sees a problem in need of a solution. When an interim teacher joined the social studies team midyear, Hallstedt mentored the new arrival to make sure the teacher succeeded and student learning continued uninterrupted. He has led professional development on how to prepare for observations and coaching conversations linked to TEAM-TN, the state’s teacher evaluation system. During remote and hybrid learning, Hallstedt shared his technology prowess with colleagues to ensure students participating at home had the same opportunities to learn as those in the classroom. 

Building Relationships and Trust: Students can be themselves in Hallstedt's classroom, not always easy for self-conscious tweens and teens. He cares deeply for their overall well-being, using the Remind communications app to connect with students and their families. Outside the classroom, Hallstedt created and runs the school's tennis program, coaching the team and organizing a club for students who want to play without competing.

Education: Hallstedt earned a bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies in 2013 from Middle Tennessee State University.

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.

  • In June, honorees will attend an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles for the 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 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

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