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A young Southeast teacher achieves, to her amazement, a national award for excellence

DAVID F. ASHTON - Milken Family Foundation Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley congratulates Whitman Elementary School first grade teacher Janet Do, on being the only Oregon teacher chosen this year for their $25,000 award for excellence in teaching. Apparently everyone involved managed to keep the secret about the purpose of the special assembly on the morning of December 3rd at Brentwood-Darlington's Whitman Elementary School – because the first grade teacher who was about to be honored with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award in front of the entire school body, clearly didn't have a clue she'd been selected for the national honor, as she sat in the assembly with her class.

After rows of dignitaries and officials were seated facing the students, the school's fourth grade classes arose to sing the Woody Guthrie folk song, "This Land Is Your Land".

Numerous introductions followed. Then, the central part of the program was handled by Milken Family Foundation's Senior Vice President, Dr. Jane Foley, who explained that the foundation was established in 1987 to "honor and award outstanding teachers across the nation".

Foley invited several students to come up front to participate in a "game show" type of presentation – in which they eventually revealed the amount of money that goes with the award that the selected teacher would be receiving.

Foley explained that these awards provide public recognition, as well as individual financial rewards, to elementary and secondary school teachers, Principals, and specialists from around the country. Those honored are furthering excellence in education, Foley explained. The foundation chooses teachers who are in their early to mid-careers -- based upon their achievements, and also upon the promise they show of what they will accomplish.

"And, the teacher we'll be honoring this morning is one of up to forty across the nation – and is the only teacher selected from Oregon!" Foley teased.

DAVID F. ASHTON - Whitman Elementary School first grade teacher Janet Do – shown at the moment she realized that SHE's the teacher being presented a $25,000 Milken Educator Award.
Then came the reveal. When her name was announced, emotions of genuine puzzlement, followed by surprise, astonishment, and then unbridled joy, were reflected in the face of Whitman teacher Janet Do.

Ms. Do hid her face as she brushed back tears, making her way to the front, there to be recognized by Portland Public School (PPS) District Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero and Deputy Director of the Oregon Department of Education Carmen Xiomara Urbina.

As the adults seated in the front of the cafetorium introduced themselves, Do discovered most of them were past Milken Educator Award recipients.

She struggled for words to express her gratitude for being awarded – and, after participating in group photos, Do spoke with reporters.

"I came here today thinking about this assembly. . . But I had no idea it would turn out like this!" she said, adding that she's in her sixth year of teaching first grade students in the Portland Public Schools, which is also the school system in which she herself was educated.

"I love building the community of the students and their families through teaching; I try to honor where they are in their life and in education.

"And, I really like seeing that my students are meeting their goals every day. I teach them to set goals, and, it's great to see them help teach one another in collaboration, so they can all meet their goals."

She paused for a moment, then added, "It's only been six years. Unbelievable!"

The school's interim Principal, Helen Nolen, commented to THE BEE, "It's incredible that a teacher at our school has been singled out to receive this national award. I'm so thankful that this organization recognizes the value of teachers and what they put into our kids throughout their lifetime.

"Our amazing teachers are building the foundation for the children's continuing education, and hopefully for their lifelong learning."

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