MILWAUKEE (October 2, 2013) — Milwaukee Public Schools teacher Sarah Berndt was honored Wednesday with an award that puts her in rare company. She’s one of just a few dozen educators across the country and the only one from Wisconsin to win the Milken Educator Award this year, dubbed the Oscar of Teaching by Teacher Magazine. The $25,000 award recognizes the exceptional work of educators who can be models for their state and the country. Berndt teaches Spanish and technology at MPS Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School, an International Baccalaureate high school on the city’s south side ranked among the top three high schools in the state this year by The Washington Post.
Berndt was surprised with the award at an all-school assembly featuring Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Evers, Milken Educator Awards Vice President Dr. Jane Foley, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Board of School Directors Vice President Meagan Holman, MPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton and Reagan Principal Mike Roemer. “I can’t imagine doing anything but working with these students,” the teacher told the students, staff and dignitaries gathered. “Thank you to all of the students who help me to be the best I can be every day.” Berndt said she got into teaching to inspire students — and to be inspired by them.
Dr. Thornton said MPS was honored to have one of our teachers recognized as among the very finest in the country. Roemer, the Reagan principal, called Berndt an amazing educator. She inspires students, teachers and parents. Her enthusiasm to teach is
contagious and her excitement spills out into whatever she does.” Berndt works to match her instruction to each student’s learning style and her efforts yield strong results: the vast majority of her students score proficient or better on the key concepts they must master. As just one example of how she works to engage students, the nine-year veteran teacher taught her International Baccalaureate (IB) technology students the technology design cycle through a proposal process not unlike that of the hit reality show Shark Tank. Students proposed and created technological solutions to problems and pitched product ideas to an independent panel.
Beyond day-to-day class work, Berndt leads the school’s online student newspaper, operates a database linking students to extra-curricular options, works with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) to strengthen youth leadership and has been recognized by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators (MMABSE) for her work to bring cultures together.
Our public education system is at the heart of America’s promise and essential to safeguarding the American dream for future generations, said Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. With research confirming that effective teachers represent the single most important school-related factor in raising student achievement, it is important to honor them, learn from them, and inspire more capable people to enter the profession. As the program’s motto extols, the future belongs to the educated.
Milken Educator Awards have grown from honoring a dozen California teachers to become the national preeminent teacher recognition program, recognizing nearly 2,600 K-12 teachers, principals and specialists since 1987, according to the Milken Family Foundation.
Previous MPS Milken awardees include Peggy Swift, in 1999, and Andrea Payan, in 2006.
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