MPS teacher wins ‘Oscar of Teaching’ — rare national Milken Educator Award

Sarah Berndt, teacher at MPS’ Reagan College Prep H.S., recognized as model for state, nation — PHOTO GALLERY, VIDEO LINK BELOW

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee Public Schools teacher Sarah Berndt was honored Wednesday with an award that puts her in rare company.

MPS 2013 Milken Educator Award winner Sarah Berndt and Milken Educator Awards Vice President Dr. Jane Foley

MPS 2013 Milken Educator Award winner Sarah Berndt and Milken Educator Awards Vice President Dr. Jane Foley

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.

Left to Right: Denise Callaway, Mike Roemer, Dr. Tony Evers, Mayor Tom Barrett, Miss Berndt, Dr. Gregory Thornton, Milken Educator Awards Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Milwaukee Board of School Directors Vice President Meagan Holman

Left to Right: Denise Callaway, Mike Roemer, Dr. Tony Evers, Mayor Tom Barrett, Miss Berndt, Dr. Gregory Thornton, Milken Educator Awards Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Milwaukee Board of School Directors Vice President Meagan Holman

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.

Milken Educator Awards (http://www.MilkenEducatorAwards.orghave grown from honoring a dozen California teachers to become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program, recognizing nearly 2,600 K-12 teachers, principals and specialists since 1987, according to the Milken Family Foundation.

“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.”

Previous MPS Milken awardees include Peggy Swift, in 1999, and Andrea Payan, in 2006.

Video of Wednesday’s surprise announcement, courtesy of Milken Educator Awards: 

Photo Gallery (Source: Milwaukee Public Schools):

About Milwaukee Public Schools

Milwaukee Public Schools, Wisconsin’s largest school district, is expanding college and career readiness efforts and continuing to implement innovative reforms that give every student the opportunity to succeed. MPS’ high-quality school options for 3-year-olds to high school seniors feature school climates in which positive behavior is reinforced; certified, highly-trained teachers; 21st-century learning technology for students; and curriculum aligned to the rigorous Common Core State Standards, which set a clear, high bar for the topics students must master at each grade level. MPS’ graduation rate is 14 points higher than the rate for the Class of 2000, its Class of 2013 earned $24 million in scholarships and the district is home to some of the state’s best high schools according to the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report.