Today’s school assembly was anything but ordinary when Dr. Jane Foley, Milken Family Foundation Senior Vice President, Milken Educator Awards, announced that William King, freshman principal at Bowling Green High School in Bowling Green, Kentucky, was the state’s Milken Educator Award winner. One of education’s most prestigious recognitions, the Award comes with a no-strings-attached cash prize of $25,000. With more than 1,200 cheering students, colleagues and a host of dignitaries – including Kentucky Commissioner Holliday, and Mrs. Madeline Abramson, wife of Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson, this exceptional educator experienced the fanfare typically reserved for all-star athletes and award-winning entertainers.
Hailed by Teacher Magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” what separates this Award from others is that the recipients have no idea that they will be honored. This recognition is not a lifetime achievement award. Recipients are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved… and for the promise of what they will accomplish. Encompassed in the recognition is the responsibility for those honored to stretch their professional practices and leadership to even higher levels.
“Our public education system is at the heart of America’s promise and essential to safeguarding the American dream for future generations,” said Lowell Milken. “With research confirming that effective teachers represent the single most important school-related factor in raising student achievement, it is important to honor them, learn from them, and inspire more capable people to enter the profession. As the program’s motto extols, the future belongs to the educated.”
A self-described educational entrepreneur, William King is laser-focused on student success. In his 12 years as an educator, King has held positions from instructional assistant to social studies teacher, curriculum coordinator, literacy coach and now freshman principal at Bowling Green High School (BGHS). Step onto the campus at any hour and it’s hard to miss his passion for the profession. A 1996 graduate of BGHS and an Eagle Scout, King was driven at a young age to achieve high goals.
As freshman principal, he oversees 9th grade studies, closely monitoring both teacher and student success. A data-driven evaluator, King collects information and shares it with fellow freshman teachers so that they can adapt their teaching practices. To ease the transition from 8th to 9th grade, he founded the high school’s Jump Start Program, where in addition to working with freshman teachers, he collaborates with middle school teachers and parents to help ensure that students are academically prepared for their first year of high school. With this approach, King reduced 9th grade retentions by 68%. King also encourages gifted students to take advantage of Advanced Placement classes and other educational opportunities.
Over the years, King has worked to create a national day for school administrators known as No Office Day to focus on taking school administrators out of the office and back into classroom. It’s not surprising he would spearhead such an idea given his own visibility in the hallways, cafeteria, parking lot – any place on campus where he can interact with the students.
King’s dedication to developing new educators is boundless. He regularly speaks at Western Kentucky University to give teachers a realistic view of what they’ll find at school. He is the co-organizer of TeachMeet Nashville, TeachMeet Kentucky, and is currently working to start TeachMeets in other states. These are informal meetings for teachers to share best practices, innovations and personal insights on teaching using technology. His other credentials include being a Microsoft Innovative Educator and an Edmodo Certified Trainer.
Since 2007, King has given more than 30 presentations ranging from improving teacher retention and designing a high school literacy program to Twitter for high school administrators. His interest in combining technology with teaching led him to implement the Bring Your Own Device program at BGHS where students can use wireless devices, such as smart phones, tablets and notebooks in class. An innovator with vision and purpose, William King is leading BGHS students and faculty, parents and community into the future.
The Awards story doesn’t end with the surprise notification. New recipients are invited to join the Milken Educator Network, a group of distinguished educators coast-to-coast whose expertise serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others shaping the future of education. “Milken Educators point to the Award as a pivotal professional milestone,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Milken Educator recipient from Indiana.
Since first presented to a dozen California teachers, the program has grown to become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program having honored nearly 2,600 K-12 teachers, principals and specialists. More than $136 million in funding, including over $64 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. From local to state to national and even international levels, the exponential impact of Milken Educators strengthens American K-12 education.
Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Awards are sourced through each participating state department of education, which appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to confidentially review candidates for recommendation to the Foundation.