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High School Teacher Receives Milken Educator Award

Photo by Arden Terry

Grand Prairie—Grand Prairie High Schoolalgebra teacher, Emily Dickerson, received a huge surprise during the school’s pep rally on Wednesday, March 9. Ms. Dickerson was awarded the Milken Educator Award, making her a part of the Milken Educator Network, which consists of over 2,800 educators.She also received $25,000.

“We are essentially having a celebration of educational excellence,” Sam Buchmeyer, Grand Prairie ISD public information officer, said. “The Milken Foundation is giving a Milken Educator Award: a $25,000 award to one of our Grand Prairie High School Teachers.”

According to Buchmeyer, the name of the award winner was a closely guarded secret, neither he, nor Dickerson knew she would win until her name was called. People are not nominated for the Milken Educator Award. They are chosen through a highly confidential selection process by Milken Family Foundation.

“The Milken Group keeps a pretty tight rein on that information to make it as much as a surprise to the educator as possible,” Buchmeyer said. “This [award] is something [the Milken Group] has done for many, many years.

“I know this is one of 60 awards they will hand out this year.It’s to not only promote educational excellence at the local level, but it’s also to recognize teachers within education to create awareness of education as a career field.”

Buchmeyer explained while the pep rally honored Dickerson, it was also a celebration of the students.

“There’s so much good stuff going on here at Grand Prairie High, and we wanted to celebrate that as well,” Buchmeyer said. “We’ve got our choirs that are going to perform.We have all of our athletes in the athletic teams that have had success all through the year.We have our mariachi group.We’ve got a lot of different areas of the school.”

Before Dickerson received her award the school’s choir, band, mariachi band, and cheerleading teams performed, and the accomplishments of the school’s athletic teams were recognized.

Lowell Milken, the chairman and a co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation, presented the award to Emily Dickerson.

“We’re looking first and foremost for really strong instructional leaders,” Milken said. “[Dickerson’s] success and achievement with her students has been remarkable. We are looking for teachers who are powerful mentors to other teachers, so they can improve those skills.The last thing we’re looking for is someone who is invested in their community. Those are really the qualities we’ve been looking for.

“It’s very interesting.On a Monday you may not have many people interested in the individual teacher’s views of things, and then all of the sudden they win the award, and you get a lot of people, who are interested. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of our teachers, this is not intended on our part, elevate themselves, become principals and actually become state super intendents. There will be a lot of opportunities come her way full-steam in the profession and with other opportunities.”

Laigha Boyle, the principal of Grand Prairie High School, was excited to see one of her teachers receive this award.

“I did not know about [Dickerson’s win] until I was called,” Boyle said. “Everything was top secret, but she is very well deserving of the award. She’s an amazing educator. We love having her here. She does great things for students.

“She is an algebra I teacher, and she has an amazing way of getting students to connect with mathematics. Her classroom is interesting and engaging.Kids who never liked math before, somehow because they had her, they turn their lives around about how much they like math and how much they like school. They become committed, and they get involved in other things. She has a knack for making that happen.

“I hope everybody has a teacher like Ms. Dickerson at some point in their lives, because those types of teachers are the ones who change lives forever.”

Boyle explained what the award means to the school.

“It means a lot, having a teacher who received an award of this level and this caliber,” Boyle said. “It brings a lot of attention and notoriety to the kinds of things we’re doing here. She’s our department chair, so she is leading other teachers in that direction and teaching that same mindset.” 

Dickerson was very surprised to win the award.

“I teach math, and I love math so much, but at the end of the day, I don’t teach because of math,” Dickerson said. “I tell my kids, ‘I want you to be prepared to take your STAR Tests, and I want you to learn and grow in my class. However, at the end of the day, I want you to grow as a human, and I want you to recognize your value as a person and your ability to learn.’

“I think my students will tell you I care about who they are as individuals, and I care about their personal growth. I care about their power to advocate for themselves. That’s why I teach.

“There are a lot of teachers here who are incredibly worthy of being recognized and receiving additional financial awards for the work they do, for the time they pour into their students and their classrooms often at the neglect of going home at a decent hour. To be chosen among other excellent educators is truly an honor. An overwhelming honor, because I wish we could regularly recognize every single teacher who is pouring into the lives of their students.

“We’re education tomorrow’s leaders,but truly all of these students will go out into the workforce, and they will be something. They might be stay at home moms, they might be doctors, they might be teachers, they might be coaches, they might be whatever. Teachers are the ones educating those students and taking them forward, so we need good teachers to be investing in the lives of our students.

“I think to be recognized for something you do, when you’re not even anticipating it, when you’ve done nothing to solicit it, is incredibly honoring,” she said. “I think it sheds light on Grand Prairie ISD, our high school, and the hard work of our other teachers. The fact we are pouring into kids at an incredibly hard time in education with COVID and recouping from that, and kids who have experienced loss in their families and are bringing that hurt into the classroom.

To be recognized in the midst of that is incredibly honoring, and I am appreciative of this award.”