Monday, December 2, 2013

Not Your Ordinary High School Assembly...

Last Tuesday, November 26, Kearney High School had an all-school assembly scheduled in which Governor Dave Heineman was to speak on the value of a high school education and the pursuit of post-secondary education or training.  It was also the last day before Thanksgiving Break, so there was a palpable excitement in the air that had mostly to do with the five days off that would commence at 3:22pm.

However this 9:00am assembly turned out to be something quite different from what most students and staff expected.  Dr. Jane Foley, Senior Vice President of the Milken Educator Awards, was introduced and began to discuss the tremendous impact educators have on society and the importance of recognizing excellence in education.  She explained that the Milken Family Foundation created the Milken Educator Awards as the "Oscars" of teaching to highlight achievement in education and future potential in the field.  The award also carries with it an unrestricted $25,000 cash award that goes directly to the teacher.

A few short minutes later, Governor Dave Heineman announced my name as the 2013 Milken Educator Award Winner for the state of Nebraska.  It was an absolutely incredible feeling, but it is probably best to just show the video of the announcement (Courtesy of Milken Family Foundation):

It is very difficult to put into words what it felt like to be recognized in such an overwhelming fashion.  To have local and state officials and dignitaries in attendance, to meet former Milken Educator Award Winners, but most of all to be recognized in front of students and staff that you work with everyday was an honor that I will never forget.

After the award was presented, I had the opportunity to make a few remarks, and I hope I made it very clear that I have been fortunate to teach at school and in a community that makes it possible for me to do exactly what I want to do each and everyday.  I get to make every effort to bring the world to the students of Kearney High School.  I get to work with amazing students and colleagues.  I have been blessed with incredible parents whose careers in education provided a blueprint for the path I have pursued.  I have the most supportive and giving wife, who not only tolerates, but encourages my voyages of international discovery, very long winter basketball seasons, and all the other school activities and projects I pursue over the course of a typical school year.  I have a young son who inspires me to do everything I can to leave the world a better place for him and his generation.  I also have been blessed with amazing teachers, mentors, administrators, and colleagues along the way that guided me towards opportunities to grow and make an impact.

Here's another edited film put together by the Milken Family Foundation that highlights other aspects of this truly incredible day (Courtesy of Milken Family Foundation):

In addition to the coverage provided by the media crew of the Milken Family Foundation, there was also some local media coverage.  Here's an television story from KHGI NTV News (a local ABC affiliate):

KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Other News Coverage:

Kearney teacher receives national educator award, $25,000
World-Herald  |  Nov 26 , 2013  |  Omaha, NE

Surprise of a Lifetime: KHS's Witte wins major teaching award
Kearney Hub  |  Nov 27 , 2013  |  Kearney, NE
KRVN-FM  |  Nov 27 , 2013  |  Kearney, NE
Lincoln Journal Star  |  Nov 27 , 2013  |  Lincoln, NE

Again, there really is no way to effectively communicate the incredible way in which the Milken Family Foundation brings recognition and sheds light on the importance of education and the value of teachers.  It was a day that I will never forget, and a day that will always serve as a reminder of how thankful I am that I have been able to match my passion for the pursuit of international understanding with the opportunity to instill global citizenship in future generations.