Monday, October 22, 2012


A third grade teacher in the Vallivue School District was named the 2012 Milken Educator of the Year for Idaho during a surprise assembly Monday morning.

Sara Ward, an elementary teacher at Lakevue Elementary School, received $25,000 as part of the prestigious award from the Milken Family Foundation. She was recognized for her innovative teaching strategies to make sure all students succeed in her classroom and in the future.

“I am so honored to recognize Sara Ward as Idaho’s 2012 Milken Educator of the Year. She is known as a rising star among her peers because she is constantly thinking outside the box to make sure her students achieve,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “We are so grateful to the Milken Family Foundation for continuing to recognize and help reward Idaho’s excellent educators.”

The recognition came as a complete surprise to Sara Ward! Her identity was kept secret until Superintendent Luna announced the award during a schoolwide assembly at Lakevue Elementary School on Monday. Superintendent Luna was joined by Dr. Gary Stark, President and CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, Idaho State Board Member Milford Terrell, and Dr. Pat Charlton, superintendent of the Vallivue School District. 

“Sara is passionate about elementary education,” Charlton said. “She is consistently trying to go beyond just teaching the daily subject content for math, reading, language, and science, but also teaching her students the skills that will enable them to ultimately teach themselves, become better problem solvers, and critical thinkers. Her goal is for her students to walk away from her class with the confidence that they can apply everything they have learned.”

Ward said she was both “overwhelmed” and “humbled” by the award. As of right now, she is not sure how she will spend the $25,000. “First, I told my husband I’d take him to dinner,” she said, laughing. “Then, I imagine a good portion will go into my classroom.”

State Board member Milford Terrell said, “On behalf of the State Board of Education, I congratulate Sara Ward on receiving this prestigious award. It is gratifying to see one of Idaho’s truly exceptional teachers recognized for her passion and dedication to our students.”
Sara Ward, second from left, stands with Supt Luna, Dr. Pat Charlton, former Milken Award winners, Principal Leeta Hobbs and Dr. Gary Stark of the Milken Family Foundation.
Ward is now one of 14 educators in Idaho who have received the prestigious Milken Educator Award since Idaho joined the Milken program in 2003. More than 2,500 educators have received the award nationwide.

The Milken Family Foundation was established in 1982 to discover and advance inventive and effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives. The Foundation advances this mission primarily through its work in education and medical research. 

About Sara Ward

Sara Ward was awarded the 2012 Milken Educator of the Year in Idaho because of her passion and innovative strategies in the classroom to help every child succeed. Ward is known as a “rising star in the education profession,” according to Dr. Pat Charlton, Superintendent of Vallivue School District. Though she has only taught for six years, she has already been recognized as Lakevue Elementary Teacher of the Year and was the first runner-up for Vallivue District Teacher of the Year.

Ward is known as an innovator who creates games so her students can apply the lessons they learn to real life. She is well-known for the “Beat the Boss” game that combines reading, math and language usage content. There are 24 levels, and students earn prizes as they work through the levels. The game is all about problem-solving and critical thinking because students must figure out their own strategies to succeed at each level. Students are completely engaged and even come in early and stay late to play the game.

Through her innovative work, Ward has seen great results in the classroom with nearly all the students in her class at proficient or advanced.

For these reasons and more, Sara Ward is the 2012 Milken Educator of the Year in Idaho. 

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