$25,000 Prize for Arkansas Teacher


SANTA MONICA, Calif. (News release) – Good learning habits have become second nature for Tasha Wilson’s second-grade class at Kingsland Elementary in Kingsland, Arkansas. That’s because Wilson motivates her students to tackle tasks that might seem well beyond the grasp of such young students. Yet challenging students while offering emotional support has thrown the door wide open to academic improvement, registering huge gains in math and reading.

But today, a new door opened for Wilson as she became Arkansas’ 2018-19 Milken Educator Award recipient during a surprise school assembly. Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key bestowed the national honor upon Wilson, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize. Wilson is among up to only 40 Milken honorees this season.

“Tasha Wilson understands that educators must teach and reach the whole child in order to get the best from them—and for them,” said Foley. “By creating a safe, compassionate haven where students can take intellectual risks, Wilson is building the skills they need to become productive and caring citizens.”

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching” has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but also to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, “The future belongs to the educated.”

Wilson motivates her pupils to perform at their peak academically and creates deep, well-rounded learning experiences that prepare students for bright futures. Wilson mentors novice teachers and serves on several committees, including Kingsland’s Professional Learning Community leadership team. A favorite of local parents and colleagues, Wilson’s excellence in teaching has boosted her school’s national rankings in every subject area, helping Kingsland earn a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School designation. 

“Ms. Wilson’s dedication to her students and community reflects the commitment necessary to transform Arkansas to lead the nation in student-focused education,” Key said. “From mentoring new teachers to taking a lead role with administrative duties, she definitely is a leader among leaders. Ms. Wilson not only helps her students build important life skills, she imparts knowledge that helps them achieve academic success. I congratulate Ms. Wilson for receiving this prestigious honor and look forward to her continued accomplishments.”

“There is no doubt why Tasha was selected to represent the state of Arkansas as the 2018 Milken Award Winner,” said Cleveland County School District Superintendent Craig Dupuy. “Her compassion, her care and her ability to get the most out of each child in her classroom, regardless of the socioeconomic background, is extraordinary! I am very proud that Tasha Wilson teaches the students in my district!”

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson added his commendations. “Being named a Milken Educator is one of the highest honors an educator can receive, which is why it gives me great pleasure to recognize and celebrate our newest Milken Educator, Ms. Tasha Wilson,” he said. “The job that our educators do each day is truly invaluable, and I appreciate all Ms. Wilson has done to ensure that our students receive the best education that Arkansas can give. She has demonstrated tremendous commitment to her students, and her efforts are receiving due attention. Ms. Wilson, thank you for leading the way, and congratulations.”

About Milken Educator Tasha Wilson
Tasha Wilson’s second-graders know how much their teacher loves them. In her classroom, students know it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they learn from them. Wilson motivates her pupils to perform at their peak academically, and they feel safe enough to take intellectual risks they might avoid in other classrooms. 

She creates deep, well-rounded learning experiences that use all the senses. For a social studies unit on the Southwest, for example, Wilson brought in pieces of cactus for the children to taste. Teaching writing is one of Wilson’s many strengths: Second graders leave her class able to write five-paragraph essays, a writing skill they will use and build on throughout their academic careers. Wilson’s students demonstrate tremendous growth under her guidance. Last year her students showed growth of 34% in math and 37% in reading on Renaissance Star 360 assessments. With scores above national averages in every area, Kingsland recently earned a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School designation. 

Wilson never hesitates to help colleagues or the school community. She mentors novice teachers each year and often steps into their classrooms to model lessons. Wilson has served on the Professional Learning Community leadership team, Professional Crisis Response Team, and literacy and math improvement teams. She tutors after school through Educational Consulting Services to help identified students achieve mastery in math and literacy. Kingsland’s principal is in the building only in the afternoons, so Wilson steps in during the mornings, handling assemblies and other administrative duties. She is, however, committed to the classroom: The district recommended Wilson for a prestigious fellowship to prepare her for a future in administration, but she preferred to continue working directly with students. 

A master of classroom management, Wilson presents students with a balance of structure and caring support. She goes above and beyond to make sure students treat each other fairly and tolerates no bullying. Wilson goes the extra mile to build trusting relationships with students with behavioral challenges, spending time with them one-on-one until their classroom performance turns around. During conferences, Wilson creates individualized plans with parents to help each child succeed. Parents know Wilson’s door is always open: She is happy to talk with them about their children’s progress, whether it’s in her classroom, the school parking lot or a nearby grocery store. 

Wilson earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2003.

Watch her reaction to winning the prize:

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