By Kailey Fisicaro
When teacher Andria Lindsey took a seat in Bend High School’s gym bleachers on Tuesday morning, she figured she was settling in for another pep rally.
The 40-year-old math teacher and International Baccalaureate program coordinator had no idea she was about to receive one of the most elite awards in education and a $25,000 check that comes with it — the 2017 Milken Educator Award.
Education leaders, including Bend-La Pine Schools’ superintendent and board members, as well as the state’s interim deputy superintendent of public education, Colt Gill, attended the rally under the guise of recognizing the high school for its participation in a character-building program that promotes courage, strength, sacrifice and integrity.
But after about 10 minutes, energetic whispers started to fill the stands. The real reason for the rally became clear as Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Family Foundation, began talking about the Milken Educator Award, which has been called “the Oscars of teaching,” she said. The foundation’s goals are to strengthen the teaching profession by attracting and retaining “the best talent” and encouraging creative teaching methods.
“One of the best teachers in the entire country is here in your school,” Foley said, adding that the Bend High teacher, one of 44 given the honor this year, is the only one from Oregon.
Foley then asked for the envelope and announced Lindsey as the winner of the award. Students and staff burst into applause and cheers, and one student reached out to grasp Lindsey’s hand as she walked forward.
Someone shouted “Love you, Lindsey” from the crowd as Lindsey came down to the gym floor, grinning, shaking, hugging and thanking Foley and Gill.
“This is a complete surprise to me,” Lindsey said. “I never imagined myself as a teacher when I was in high school like all of you.”
Lindsey, who has been a teacher for 17 years, has spent 14 of those teaching math at Bend High. And for the past four years, she’s also headed up the high school’s lauded International Baccalaureate program, where students can take a few IB classes or earn a full IB Diploma.
Lindsey said she didn’t realize she wanted to become a teacher until she began tutoring math in college for extra money.
“As time went on I realized what a gift my teachers gave me and I had amazing people who took time out of their lives to go the extra mile to make sure that I had a positive educational experience,” Lindsey said. “So I always think that this is the best place I could ever be was with students, and you all know how much I love you, and how passionate I am about your futures.”
Lindsey said thank you for the award, and when students began roaring with cheers again, she simply made a heart with her hands and held it up to her chest, smiling at the crowd.
Candidates for the award don’t apply and aren’t nominated, Foley said. The Milken Family Foundation worked closely with the Oregon Department of Education to find the kind of teacher it was looking to honor. Among many attributes, the foundation wants someone who’s innovative in the classroom, yields successful results, is a leader, a role model and an “unsung hero,” Foley said.
Foley described the award and “the critical role teachers and principals play in our society.”
Bend High Principal Chris Reese said the spirited and loving attitude seen at the rally is made possible by the positive relationships staff build with students.
“Andria is a perfect example,” Reese said, adding her Milken Educator Award is a well-deserved honor.
This is Lindsey’s first school year running the IB program full time instead of teaching too, Reese said, adding Lindsey is currently working on getting a more diverse group of students to participate.
When the rally was complete and students began scurrying back to class, several stuck around a moment to hug and congratulate Lindsey, whom a few described as being like a second mom.
“When her name was announced I thought, ‘Of course it’s Ms. Lindsey,’” said Lauren Hough, an 18-year-old senior.
Lauren, who is working on earning an IB Diploma, said Lindsey tutors students in math for free.
Milken Educator Award recipients are free to spend the $25,000 as they choose, according to Foley. The award is not a lifetime achievement award, Foley said. Rather, the foundation tries to find teachers who are fairly early in their careers to encourage them to stay in education.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org