Unsuspecting Northampton first grade teacher surprised with $25,000 national award- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, October 8, 2002
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

Unsuspecting Northampton first grade teacher surprised with $25,000 national award

NORTHAMPTON - An elementary school teacher got an unexpected $25,000 bonus on Tuesday when she was lured into a school-wide assembly and learned she was named one of two Massachusetts’ recipients of the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards.

Mary Cowhey teaches first grade at the Jackson Street Elementary School in Northampton. She was unaware she had been nominated for the award by her colleagues at the school until her name was called out by Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. She is one of two educators being honored this week by the Milken Foundation. The second award will be announced on Wednesday.

The recipients all receive a check for $25,000, a trip to Los Angeles for a two-day National Milken Family Education Conference and awards ceremony, and membership in a network of more than 1,900 educators from around the country who have been honored in the past years.

This is the sixth year Massachusetts has participated in the program.

“I am delighted that yet again several Massachusetts teachers have been selected by the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards," said Governor Jane Swift. “The Milken Foundation has discovered what we in Massachusetts have know for a long time -- our teachers are among the most dedicated and talented in the nation. Congratulations to Mary on behalf of the Commonwealth.”

Commissioner Driscoll agreed.

“One of the best parts of my job is being able to recognize teachers like Mary who do exceptional work, every single day,” he said. “Mary’s efforts in the classroom, and her commitment to her students and their families make her an inspiration to us all.”

Nominated by her colleagues, Cowhey was noted for her ability to meet the needs of all students, regardless of background, socio-economic status or language. She visits the homes of her incoming first graders every year before school starts, and develops relationships with all of her students’ parents throughout the year through newsletters, phone calls and visits. Known also for her commitment to diversity, she was chosen to serve as a delegate for an international conference about racism in South Africa.

In recommending Cowhey for the award, teacher Mary Ginley wrote that she “gives me great hope for the future.”

“I have been teaching for over 30 years, and along the way I have met many good teachers, a few very bad ones and a few gifted ones,” she wrote. “Mary is one of the gifted ones.”

Established in 1985, the Milken award is given annually to unsuspecting teachers, principals and educators from around the country. Known as the “Oscars of Teaching” the awards were created by the foundation as a way to reward, attract and retain top educators in the nation’s public schools.

The Massachusetts recipients were selected by an independent statewide Blue Ribbon panel of superintendents, teachers and other educators. Predetermined criteria for the award include exceptional educational talent and promise, skill in developing innovative and creative educational curricula, programs and/or teaching method; commitment to professional development and ability to instill self confidence in students.

Lowell and Michael Milken established the Milken Family Foundation in 1982 to support education and health care nationwide. The educator recognition program is the largest in the United States. This year 100 educators in 46 states will receive the award.

Since its inception, the Foundation has given out $47 million to recipients.

“Dedicated and talented teachers are the cornerstone of a quality education for our children,” said Lowell Milken. “We salute the outstanding work of these inspiring educators as they help guide and ensure the success of future generations.”

For more information about the Milken National Educator Awards, check the Foundation’s Web site at www.mff.org.

Last Updated: October 8, 2002

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