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Kansas Elementary Teacher Gets $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Linda Dishman is joined by Governor Jeff Colyer, Lowell Milken (far right) and others as she accepts the award. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)
Linda Dishman is joined by Governor Jeff Colyer, Lowell Milken (far right) and others as she accepts the award. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

A 5th grade teacher at Berryton Elementary School got quite a surprise during an all-school assembly Friday morning. Linda Dishman was presented with the Milken Educator Award, which comes with a $25,000 check. The Milken Family Foundation, which presents the award, recognized Dishman for her innovative teaching methods, particularly in history. KPR's J. Schafer spoke with Dishman shortly after she received the award and asked about her teaching style.

Story by Stephen Koranda

A teacher at Berryton Elementary School outside Topeka came to an assembly Friday with no idea she was about to win a prestigious teaching award.

Lowell Milken traveled from California to the packed gymnasium to surprise fifth-grade teacher Linda Dishman with the Milken Educator Award and a $25,000 prize.

The children from the school and their teachers had gathered and sat on the floor of the gymnasium. The room burst into cheers when Milken announced that Dishman was the winner.

“I was shocked, but at the same time very honored and humbled,” Dishman said after the event.

Dishman told the crowd that the award came at the end of the toughest week of her life. Her uncle had died unexpectedly and her grandmother is also in the final stages of her life, but Dishman decided not to take time off of work.

“I chose to come because those kids greeted me with a smile and a hug,” she said. “They put a smile on my face and reassured me that it was going to be OK.”

Milken told the school that the award is aimed at honoring great teachers, which he said doesn’t happen enough in the U.S.

“We’re so quick to recognize greatness in other professions,” Milken said before announcing the winner. “Isn’t it odd that one profession, the teaching profession, is seldom part of a celebration?”

Milken created the award 30 years ago to offer that recognition.

This is Dishman’s seventh year of teaching and she has some advice for other young teachers.

“When it gets challenging, keep pushing, believe in yourself,” she said. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’re making a difference, but you are.”

The principal of her school, Stacey Giebler, credits Dishman for her infectious enthusiasm, leadership and detailed teaching plans.

“She leads by example,” Giebler said. “She will support her colleagues no matter what they need. She will support students in any way that they need.”

The group gives up to 40 Milken Educator Awards each year. This is the only one in Kansas for 2018.

J. Schafer is the News Director of Kansas Public Radio. He’s also the Managing Editor of the Kansas Public Radio Network, which provides news and information to other public radio stations in Kansas and Missouri.