Seventy-five thousand dollars has been awarded to three educators in Utah in honor of their excellence.
The Milken Family Foundation gave $25,000 apiece Wednesday to Valley Elementary principal Brad Larsen and teacher Michelle Evans in Huntsville.On Tuesday, Victor Williamson, a teacher at Central Elementary School in Pleasant Grove, received the same prize.
"I think it's incredible to win something like this for having the time of my life and the best job in the world," said sixth-grade teacher Evans, who has taught at Valley for 13 years.
Evans is not new to the big money teaching-award category. Last April, she won a Huntsman award for what she calls her imagination in the classroom. That prize came with $10,000.
While Evans was dumbfounded by the award, Larsen had an inkling he would be selected after State Superintendent of Public Instruction Scott Bean said one of the awards was going to a new transfer.
The six-year administrator and 20-year educator had just transferred from North Ogden Elementary. Before his name was read, he put his head in his hands.
"I will do everything in my power to be worthy of this honor," said Larsen, who, like Evans, received a standing ovation and hearty cheers from his 700 students gathered in an assembly. "I want to say, `Let's party,' but we bettter hold off a little on that."
This marks the second year Utahns have been surprised by the Milken Foundation, which selects teachers for the award based on creativity, dedication and skills as an educator. Winners of the National Educator Award will receive their checks at a June conference in Los Angeles.
Since 1985, the foundation has recognized the exemplary work of 1,330 teachers, counselors, librarians and principals in 38 states. Six teachers from the Beehive State won places in the education network last year.
"I'm almost embarrassed," said Williamson, after Bean presented the news to the cheers of excited students Tuesday. "It's like winning at `Wheel of Fortune.' "
Williamson also has received the prestigious Huntsman award.
The math teacher and director of Alpine's celebrated Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center, did not know he had been nominated for the honor by district officials.
"We have so many teachers who are exceptional," said Alpine SUperintendent Steven C. Baugh.
The space center is a mock spaceship designed around spacecraft from the "Star Trek" television series. Student crews learn how to cooperate, communicate and apply basic science to simulated situations.
But Williamson insists he makes a statement to his students coupling black Nike running shoes with dress slacks, pressed shirts and ties.
"I always wear tennis shoes. It's my trademark" Williamson said. "I tell my students that if you want to survive in life you've got to keep running." He can buy a lot of tennis shoes - or whatever else he wants - with his $25,000 prize, though he had no immediate plans for his unexpected windfall.
"Maybe I'll go on a wild ride on the stock market," he said. "Maybe I'll pay off some bills. Maybe I'll have a party for the school."
Evans and Larsen were also unsure of how to spend their new nest egg.
"I'm happy they're going to be representatives of great educators statewide," said Weber Superintendent Tim Chatelain. "They both have a great love for kids. That's what makes them great."