Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Thermopolis' Milken Award winner still reeling

THERMOPOLIS – When Thermopolis Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade health and physical education teacher Shannon Hill learned during a surprise assembly that she had earned the prestigious Milken Educator award on Jan. 5, she was not only surprised but stunned and a little bit overwhelmed. Now, close to two weeks later, she is still reeling from receiving the award and the implications to her future.

 

January 18, 2018

THERMOPOLIS – When Thermopolis Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade health and physical education teacher Shannon Hill learned during a surprise assembly that she had earned the prestigious Milken Educator award on Jan. 5, she was not only surprised but stunned and a little bit overwhelmed. Now, close to two weeks later, she is still reeling from receiving the award and the implications to her future.

"I'm still feeling pretty awesome; I mean I think more than anything it makes me feel really proud to be part of a program that can put health and physical education on the map. I feel really honored to be able to promote our program and promote health and PE. In our district it doesn't get overlooked but I know in a lot of districts health and PE is one that can be put on the back burner a lot," Hill said. She added that being 1 of 44 teachers honored throughout the country still has her reeling and that she cannot get passed the questions that keep coming into her head, "Why me? How did the Milken Foundation get my name?"

"Obviously our PE program here is different than other PE programs. I don't think what we are doing has never been done but I think it's just so rare. We presented it at the National School Board Conference and even then I was like, don't people do this? Apparently not. So I think our PE program sets us apart. My health program, I am just really passionate and I think that plays a huge part in it. I am super passionate about every health unit that I teach but I know that all the teachers around me are just as passionate about what they teach. I do a lot of cool stuff but so do the other teachers here, I think it was the PE program that set us apart a little bit," Hill said.

According to the Milken Educator Award press release, "Students at some schools bike to class, but students of Shannon Hill at Thermopolis Middle School bike in class. The Wyoming physical education and health teacher thinks way outside the box, building outdoor activities right into her classes. Taking advantage of her small town's natural setting, nestled at the southern end of the Big Horn Basin, Hill treats her students to hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing and even an annual off-campus camping trip.

"Far more than glorified rural recess, Hill's interdisciplinary health and PE classes incorporate math and science concepts while also promoting mental health and wellness - all disguised as good old fun. Hill also pumps up her colleagues as she mentors new teachers, engages students after school by coaching volleyball and promotes community runs and fitness events to more fully integrate physical activity into everyday life."

Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said during the surprise assembly, "Shannon Hill's dedication and commitment to her students goes well beyond the classroom. She practices what she teaches, and is able to combine physical education and health in a way that touches each student personally. Shannon leads by example, and it shows in the way she inspires everyone around her, whether in the classroom or on the volleyball court, coaching the Lady Cats of Hot Springs High School."

MILKEN EDUCATOR AWARD

Thirty years ago a man named Lowell Milken created the Milken Educator Award. The Milken Award is so prestigious that it is called the Oscars of teaching. The Milken Award says in a very public way that greatness in education should be recognized too, that outstanding educators are the backbone of every distinguished school. Teachers who receive the Milken award are no nominated and the award cannot be applied for. Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Administrator Greg Gallagher stated the day that Hill received the award, "You don't find us, we find you. We search all over the country to find the best of the best and the best of the best for a Milken Award also means that an educator has the potential to be a leader in education for decades to come and the educator is an unsung hero and has done extraordinary work but is relatively unknown outside your school district."

Hill will join past and present Milken Educator Award winners in Washington D.C. this March to work together to improve education across America. Hill stated that she is looking forward to meeting the other recipients and learning what teachers across the nation are doing inside their classrooms. "I'm a little nervous, but also excited, just to be able to represent Wyoming and Thermopolis is something that I have never dreamed of doing. I do want to be prepared, I don't know if I will have to make a speech or anything like that but I know that we have a lot of discussions about different education reforms and different pieces of education policies and things like that. I'm excited to be the representative not only for Wyoming and Thermopolis but also for the health and PE aspect of it and whatever I can do to help promote that," Hill said.

Hill's plans for the $25,000 she received with the Milken award are sensible and doesn't include things like a vacation. She stated that, "We are being a little more practical with it. I'm going to kick a little back to my program but I will choose something specific that I have wanted for my program. But other than that we just have adult things to do with that money, which is unfortunate but it was life changing for us. Obviously that amount of money would be life changing for anyone."

 
 

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