A second grade teacher in Indianapolis was surprised with a national award Tuesday that honors excellent and innovative educators.
Brittany Tinkler of Rosa Parks Elementary in the Metropolitan School District of Perry Township received the Milken Educator Award, which includes an unrestricted cash prize of $25,000, during what she believed was a normal assembly.
“Money aside, to get this award fills my soul,” Tinkler said.
Tinkler, a graduate of Perry Meridian High School, said she remembers wanting to be a teacher ever since she was in kindergarten, playing school and making worksheets for her little sister and stuffed animals. Although she often struggled academically and socially when she was in school, that only encouraged her to help others.
“When I got into high school, after all of the struggling, I officially decided I'm going to become an educator so that I can help students feel successful and find what it is they're good at, so I can bring that out of them at a young age,” Tinkler said. “I want them to have a different foundation laid for them than what was laid for me.”
Known as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the award recognizes early to mid-career educators across the country with roughly five to 18 years of experience. Educators are unable to apply for the award through a formal recommendation or application.
The Milken Family Foundation works with state education departments, such as the Indiana Department of Education, to select finalists who use innovative practices with student results, leadership skills beyond the classroom and unsound heroes who haven’t sought out awards.
Jane Foley, Milken Educator Awards’ senior vice president, was an Indiana educator for 24 years and a previous recipient of the Milken Award. Foley said award founder Lowell Milken created this prize to help retain valuable educators.
“[Milken] was so influenced by his teachers, that he wanted other students to have the kind of advantages that he had,” Foley said. “And he wanted educators like he had to stay in the profession. So he said, ‘I want this to be a big monetary award that will make a big difference in the person's incentive to stay in the profession, and what other people do to view education as a valuable career.”
Foley said educators have used the funds to adopt children, earn masters degrees and pay off student loans, among other things. Tinkler hasn’t decided what she will spend the award on, but assumes a large chunk of the funds will go toward her two kids and resources to support the children in her classroom.
Tinkler and other awardees will also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Milken Educator Awards Forum this April in Los Angeles.
Tinkler is one of 35 educators who will receive the award during the 2022-2023 school year. Another Hoosier teacher received this award in November. Sixty-seven other Indiana teachers, principals and specialists have received this award since it began in 1987, including educators currently at the MSD Washington Township School district, Butler University and Notre Dame.
The Milken Family Foundation has invested more than $140 million in funding to the Milken Educator Awards to motivate and provide professional development to outstanding teachers.
Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.