A really cool presentation took place this morning at the Watertown, South Dakota School District where one educator had the surprise of a lifetime.

First-grade teacher Abby Turbak was sitting on the floor with her students at McKinley Elementary when she learned that she is South Dakota's 2022 Milken Educator Award winner.

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues, and communities.

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Milken Educator Awards
Milken Educator Awards

To Turbak's surprise, after her name was announced, she was presented with a check for $25,000 to use however she chooses.

Over the past 35 years, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.

“South Dakota’s teachers make a tremendous impact on the lives of our young people. Abby Turbak has proven that when we focus on student growth and challenge them to succeed, they will rise to the occasion,” said Secretary Sanderson. “Students thanked Abby today with cheers and excitement – and that illustrates the power strong teaching has on student learning, motivation and confidence. Congratulations to Abby, and thank you to our teachers throughout the state.”

Milken Educator Awards
Milken Educator Awards

Pictured above: From left, Rodell Frey (SD '02); Karen Lukens (SD '02); LeeAnna Rabine (SD '14); Amanda Christensen (SD '16); Carla Diede (SD '17); recipient Abby Turbak (SD '22); Nichole Bowman (SD '21); Camrin Vaux (SD '21); Gina Benz (SD '15); and Kira Christensen Dylla (SD '09).

Turbak is a graduate of the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, earning a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2010 and a master’s in elementary and early childhood education in 2011.

The award also comes along with an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in April 2023, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.

The $25,000 cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.

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