The Milken Educator Award has been called "The Oscars of Teaching" by Teacher Magazine. Carla Diede of Harrisburg South Middle School was surprised with the honor Thursday morning during a school-wide assembly.
Students and teachers didn't know the real reason behind the assembly at first. They were told it was because a special guest was visiting. Newly appointed Secretary of Education Don Kirkegaard was there, along with Harrisburg Superintendent Jim Holbeck and a host of school board members.
Deide, a math teacher, said she wasn't surprised by a visit from distinguished guests. "Harrisburg South Middle is an awesome school with a great team of teachers," she said.
The assembly soon switched gears with the introduction of Greg Gallagher, the senior program administrator for the Milken Family Foundation. He explained the foundation's mission to elevate the teaching profession through national recognition and a $25,000 prize.
"And before we leave," he told the gym filled with students, "A teacher at Harrisburg South is going to receive a national award, and the only one in South Dakota."
After a drumroll, Secretary Kirkegaard announced the winner. Diede admitted that when the reason for the assembly was revealed she hoped she wasn't the winner, because she prefers to avoid the spotlight.
"And then when they said my name," she said, "That was very overwhelming and humbling, to just be recognized at such a national level is amazing. It's nothing that I would've ever expected by any means."
Gallagher said Deide was chosen for a Milken Educator Award for her outstanding work in personalized learning. She's one of 44 teachers in the country to receive the honor this year.