November 7, 2014
Contact: Heidi Embley
Phone: (907) 742-4158
Award, dubbed the Oscars of teaching, came as a complete surprise
Jenna White, a PE teacher at Orion Elementary School on JBER, was awarded the national Milken Educator Award during a surprise ceremony today at the school. White will receive $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation later this spring.
White has taught PE in ASD since 2008.
“Congratulations to Jenna White! I am particularly pleased to see recognition for a physical education teacher,” Alaska Education Commissioner Mike Hanley said in a statement Ms. White’s achievements demonstrate the importance of modeling healthy practices in school and the value of a complete education.”
Fellow educators say White teaches students the skills they need to succeed in life: goal-setting, team-building, reaching for your personal best and giving back to the community. Her exciting and innovative approach inspires students to see physical fitness as an essential part of their lives rather than simply a means to an end. She’s made P.E. fun by transforming Orion’s gym into an obstacle course, adding a climbing wall and incorporating themes like the holidays, the Olympics and the Iditarod into her lessons. With White’s help, kids develop an expertise in many diverse skills such as juggling, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, fitness testing, gym hockey and Native skills. She also collaborates with the military to create activities based on real boot camp exercises. She works with her students to set goals and offers unlimited support both during and after hours. She also maintains five sets of data for all of her students so she can gauge their progress and areas needing extra help.
“Jenna’s ability to connect with students through her teaching is remarkable. She takes all of the outstanding attributes and characteristics that we want our students to have and she reinforces that daily in her interactions with students,” said Superintendent Ed Graff.
White has developed notable school events, including an annual 26-mile bike ride for fifth-graders, a staff vs. sixth-grade basketball game and activities that get students involved in community fundraising activities. According to Orion’s teachers and staff, the successes that students experience in PE give them the confidence and resilience they need to persevere and try harder, both academically and socially.
White was unaware that she was being considered for the recognition. Staff and students thought they were attending a school assembly to greet Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Commissioner Mike Hanley who was there to talk to students about respect. White learned of the award during the school assembly.
Following the announcement, when asked her favorite part about coming to work every day, White said, “The kids make everything worthwhile. They make me laugh every day. They teach me something every day.”
Referred to as the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher Magazine, the Milken Educator Awards were created in 1985 to reward, retain and attract the highest caliber professionals to our nation’s schools. A committee formed by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development identifies and evaluates educators and administrators for the award. The Milken Family Foundation makes the final section based on educational talent, accomplishments beyond the classroom, leadership, and engaging and inspiring presence. The $25,000 awards can be used any way recipients choose. Up to 100 winners nationwide are selected each year. White is one of nine ASD teachers who have won the Milken Award since 2000.
The attached photo is courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation. Additional photos are available online.
Video of the announcement is available online.