Topeka teacher surprised with national $25K award during school assembly

Kristine Becker of Logan Elementary was presented a national Milken Educator Award.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 11:37 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - One elementary school teacher in Topeka will go home with $25,000 and the title of Milken Educator following a surprise during a schoolwide assembly.

Officials with the Milken Family Foundation said on Wednesday, Jan. 18, that Logan Elementary’s Kristine Becker, a fourth-grade teacher, was surprised with the national Milken Educator Award. The honor comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize and recognizes outstanding educators across the nation for excellence in and out of the classroom.

Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop was accompanied by Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson to present the award at a schoolwide assembly that featured local and state dignitaries.

The Foundation indicated that the award is meant to inspire and uplift the unique stories of educators who make a profound difference for students, colleagues and their communities. Specific states and schools of winners remain a closely guarded secret until each award is announced.

“Whether transformed into a courtroom, campfire ground, or spy headquarters, Kristine’s classroom is a window to the world. These rich learning experiences are providing students with tangible skills to succeed in school and life,” said Bishop, a 2001 Virginia Milken Educator. “Beyond the classroom, Kristine is active on school committees, mentors fellow teachers and spreads effective practices in the district. We are thrilled to celebrate Kristine today and welcome her to our diverse and talented Milken Educator Network.”

Along with Wednesday’s celebration, Becker will now become a lifelong member of the Milken Educator Network - a group of more than 2,900 educators and leaders from across the nation who are dedicated to strengthening K-12 education.

“Kristine is the caliber of teacher every student deserves,” said Commissioner Watson. “The creativity she brings to her classroom every day creates excitement in her students to learn and sparks their curiosity. I am so pleased to see her talent being recognized by the Milken Foundation.”

Since the awards’ inception in 1987, the Foundation noted that more than $140 million in funds - including more than $73 million in individual awards - has been devoted to the initiative. This includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout the careers of the award recipients.

The Foundation said Becker creates an immersive environment where students have fun and hardly realize they are learning. A master of classroom transformations, it said she creates a court-like atmosphere for her unit on the branches of government. She has even held mock elections to mirror national elections, built fake campfires and created spy headquarters. Students connect with the curriculum while building memories and her creative methods contribute to meaningful results.

Officials also noted that Becker is a well-respected and inspirational member in her building and throughout the district. She personalizes learning through small-group instruction and provides opportunities for students to choose and embrace technology. She has earned the National Geographic Educator Certification and created the district’s first elementary STEM fair. As a first-year and student teacher mentor, she also helps shape the next generation of teachers.

The Foundation indicated that one of the reasons Becker was chosen was her focus on relationships. She builds relationships with every student in her classroom and fosters compassion and respect, highlights personal interest and make students feel safe to try new things and push beyond their comfort zone.

During the COVID-19 pandemic school closures, officials said Becker went the extra mile and delivered notes to students’ homes to create engaging remote content - including a video series where she dressed like a pioneer from the Oregon Trail.

Becker earned her bachelor’s in elementary education from Emporia State University in 2013 and a master’s in instructional coaching with a concentration in elementary STEM in 2016.