Hamilton Elementary School teacher Nichole Anderson, who has made technology a central part of her education curriculum, was presented with the $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Wednesday.
From among 33 educators nationwide selected to receive the prestigious award, Anderson is the sole Californian to take the honor this season. As the computer lab teacher at Hamilton, Anderson helps students build technology skills that support all areas of learning.
A 12-year Hamilton teacher, Anderson said she was beyond surprised to win the award.
“They told us we were doing a ‘Leader and Me’ assembly,” she said. “Usually I have to plan the assemblies but they weren’t asking for my help today — but that’s because they didn’t want me to know anything. And I was so surprised to get this award!”
Milken Family Foundation chairman and co-founder Lowell Milken praised Anderson as did Pasadena Unified Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald.
“Lowell Milken was talking to the kids and said ‘We need to award our teachers when they’re awesome too. They said there was an amount they were giving and the kids guessed $2500 but they said ‘Add another zero’ and the kids flipped over signs so the whole room could see the number was $25,000.”
Anderson said she feels fortunate to see her students grow up right before her eyes.
“I feel like my position is unique because I get to teach every kid,” she said. “I get to teach all 600 kids. That’s super cool, because then I get to see the kids from the time they’re in kindergarten through sixth grade. It’s cool seeing my kindergarten babies grow up,” she said.
Anderson said technology education is crucial today.
“The technology we provide them is becoming a life skill and they need to be technology literate but also we have to set boundaries and we have conversations,” she said. “They’re learning the typing skills and basic programs like word processor, slide shows, and learning how to make posters, but also they’re learning 3D printing. We’re preparing them for jobs that we don’t even know what those jobs are yet. But most of all we need to introduce the students to new concepts and let their brains explore.”
Anderson spent her entire 12-year career at Hamilton Elementary. She started out teaching fourth grade for four years. There was a layoff and she went back to school for the first time to get her special education credential.
“I went back to school to get my Special Education credential but when the opportunity to teach computer lab came up, I went for it,” she said. “I had to go back to school for that too.”
Anderson has been keeping up on her continuing education, and took special courses to get the computer lab position.
Keric Ashley, deputy superintendent of public instruction introduced Milken.
“A forward-thinking teacher like Nichole Anderson understands the importance of building a technology foundation that helps prepare students for academic and real-world challenges in the 21st century, Milken said. “She is a welcome addition to the National Milken Educator Network.”
Superintendent McDonald said teachers like Anderson help people to see the big picture.
“Nichole Anderson is a visionary educator who inspires students to reach high, be creative, and develop solutions to real-world problems,” he said. “She ensures that students are equipped with knowledge and skills to form meaningful connections to the world through technology, leadership, and collaboration.”
The Milken Educator Awards were created by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. The awards recognize teaching excellence publicly to inspire educators, but students and entire communities about the importance of joining the teaching profession.
More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. The Milken Educator Awards was created to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and to encourage talented young people to choose teaching as a profession.
So what’s Anderson going to do with the money?
“I’m going to use it to pay back my student loans,” she said.
Pasadena Teacher Surprised with Milken Educator Award and $25,000