Sarah Vann, a science teacher at the Owasso Eighth Grade Center, was surprised Monday with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award, given by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi and Dr. Jane Foley of the Milken Family Foundation.
“I’m thrilled for Ms. Vann and proud of the work she’s done in her classroom,” Barresi said. “To win this prestigious award from the Milken Family Foundation shows Ms. Vann is truly an excellent educator worthy of all of our accolades. Her students are indeed lucky to have her as their teacher.”
Vann, of Skiatook, graduated with her Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University and will receive her Master’s degree in educational technology from Oklahoma State University in December. She has been at Owasso Eighth Grade Center for seven years and taught two years in Tahlequah Public Schools. The National Board Certified Teacher also is a 2011 finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation’s highest honor for U.S. math and science teachers in grades kindergarten through 12th. Vann also was a finalist for the award in 2009.
Vann said she was completely surprised by the award. She thought the school was being honored for science and math scores that included 100 percent passing rate for students in Algebra I and 98 percent passing for state science tests.
“That alone was a great accomplishment,” she said. “But there is nothing like knowing at the end of the day you’ve done a good job and the people above you know you’ve done a good job and recognize you for that.”
Vann was surprised in front of a school wide assembly Monday that was attended by U.S. Congressman John Sullivan, R-Tulsa; state Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso; state Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso; state Board of Education member Phil Lakin Jr., Owasso Public Schools Superintendant Dr. Clark Ogilvie; school principal Deidre Hodge; and several past Milken award winners, including last year’s winner Jennifer (Evans) Lowery, a fifth-grade math teacher from Highland Park Elementary School in the Midwest City-Del City School District.
The Milken Educator Award, in its 25th year, is given to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who further excellence in education. Up to 40 educators nationwide will receive the award this year.
In Oklahoma, the award winner is determined by a Blue Ribbon Panel appointed by the state Department of Education. The final selection is made by the Milken Family Foundation. Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. The award can be spent however recipients choose.
Selection criteria for the award winner include: Proven effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school; accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession; early- to mid-career educators who offer strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.
New recipients are invited to join the Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,500 distinguished educators plus business leaders from across the country, whose expertise serves as a resource towards shaping the future of education.
Oklahoma has had 25 award winners since joining the program in 2000. More than 2,500 recipients nationwide have received the award since it was first given during the 1985-87 school year. Since that time, the Milken Family Foundation has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in support of public education, with more than $135 million directed to the Milken Educator Awards.
The Milken Family Foundation was established in 1982 by Lowell and Michael Milken to discover and advance inventive and effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based foundation advances this mission primarily through its work in education and medical research.