Robert Cook, a teacher at Central High School in Rapid City, got a $25,000 surprise today. Gov. Mike Rounds and Education Secretary Rick Melmer presented Cook with a Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize, at a surprise announcement at the school earlier today.
“Milken award winners represent some of the best teaching professionals in the country,” said Dr. Rick Melmer, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education. “We are extremely proud to be presenting this award to one of our own.”
Among his many accomplishments, Cook was instrumental in developing Central’s Lakolkiciyapi Room, an experimental classroom for at-risk 9th-grade students. Approximately 70 percent of the students served in this program are Native American. Cook incorporates Native American culture and history into the classroom and makes it relevant for all students.
Described by one of his colleagues as a “breath of fresh air,” Cook is credited with engaging his students and connecting with their families, positively impacting student achievement and drop-out rates, and providing “inspiration for all ages.”
In addition to the cash award, Cook will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in a professional development conference in May 2006.
The Milken National Educator Awards were created by Lowell Milken in 1985 to celebrate, elevate and activate the highest caliber professionals in the nation’s schools. From Oct. 24 to Nov. 4, nearly 100 unsuspecting K-12 teachers, principals and specialists throughout the United States will be surprised with the news of their $25,000 awards.
Milken Educator Awards are awarded on the following criteria:
• Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school.
• Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession;
• Strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and
• Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.