Petal teacher only Mississippi Milken Educator winner

February 29, 2020 GMT

PETAL, Miss. (AP) — Just one Mississippi teacher this year was awarded the coveted Milken Educator Award and the $25,000 that goes along with it.

During a surprise assembly Tuesday, Kathryn Daniels, a 10th grade history teacher at Petal High School, received the recognition that’s also known as the “Oscar of teaching.”

“It took me a couple seconds to register they had said my name,” Daniels told The Hattiesburg American.

Daniels didn’t know she was getting the award. It was a surprise — presented at an all-school assembly by Greg Gallagher, Milken Awards senior program director, and Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright.

The award recognizes the exceptional work of Daniels as a model in the state and the nation.

“We’re so proud of her work,” Gallagher said. “She’s a leader in education. Her work in education is commendable. She mentors other teachers. She teaches her students from where they are and gets them to where they need to be.”

It was the only Milken Educator Award to be given in Mississippi this season. Forty awards were presented around the nation in 2019-20.

Daniels expects she and her husband will invest the money and use some of it to get her Ph.D.

“I am so blessed and fortunate,” she said. “It’s about other people and that’s the irony. I feel like it’s about other people who have invested in me along the way.”

Daniels has been a teacher for nine years — six years at Petal High.

One person who was not taken aback by the news was Petal School District Superintendent Matthew Dillon.

“For me, I know how great our teachers are across our district so it’s not a big surprise,” he said. “They do amazing work.”

The Milken Educator Awards were created by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987 to recognize teaching excellence and to inspire educators, students and communities about the importance of joining the teaching profession. A panel at state education departments chooses the recipients. About $1.8 million in Milken Awards have been presented over the years in Mississippi.

Gallagher said the award not only recognizes Daniel’s achievement, but also her potential.

“She has the capacity to be a leader in education for years to come,” he said.