Spokane teacher Karen Krantz sat frozen in her seat, unsure she’d just heard her name and the prestigious national Milken Award in the same sentence.
A student’s hug and a standing ovation moved her from her seat to the front of the packed gymnasium at Adams Elementary.
“This is surreal. I don’t even know how something like this happens,” Krantz said. “I’m overwhelmed.”
The surprise announcement came Wednesday during a school assembly where students and staff expected to be honored for their citizenship program – an intentional ruse.
Krantz joins just 40 other teachers nationwide in being recognized by the Milken Family Foundation this year. She’s the only Washington recipient.
“It’s like the Oscars of education,” said Irene Gonzalez, a previous recipient and Franklin Elementary School principal who attended.
Since 1987, Milken awards have been given to about 2,600 educators in the U.S. The purpose of the award is to attract, retain and reward outstanding educators.
“It’s a privilege to be part of a system that gets to honor people who don’t get honored enough,” said Jane Foley, Milken Educator Awards’ senior vice president, who made the announcement Wednesday at Adams.
The Milken foundation is forwarded a list of the best-of-the-best teachers from each state and chooses award recipients from that pool. Krantz was noted for raising her previous fifth-graders’ state science scores from 25 percent passing to 75 percent in two years. She took her talents to sixth grade, and 85 percent of her most recent class entering middle school had met the standards in math and reading.
The award also comes with a $25,000 no-strings-attached cash prize. So far, Krantz plans to buy tablet computers for her students and stick the rest of the money in the bank.
Learning about the teacher’s plan to buy tablets gave goose bumps to Deana Brower, a school board member for Spokane Public Schools.
“We have so many great teachers in our district, and every once in a while they get recognition,” she said. “What an honor.”
When Krantz returned to her classroom, she told her students they’d have a doughnut party too.
Principal Brian Melody said, “It’s easy to be an effective principal when you have folks like Karen, and we have many, many.”
Krantz arrived at Adams Elementary School on the South Hill nine years ago after a three-year stint at Glover Middle School. She’s been with Spokane Public Schools since the start of her career.
Krantz’s “focus on student achievement is extraordinary,” said Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction. “Ms. Krantz is a role model for both students and educators. Her dedication and hard work are reflected in her exceptional results.”
Adams Elementary students in her class seemed less surprised than she did about the award.
When student Demitri Hagan hugged Krantz right after the announcement, the 11-year-old said into her ear: “I knew it was you.”
“I like Ms. Krantz, and I’m really happy that she got the award,” said 11-year-old Chanelle Bridges, another one of her students.
During the assembly, classmate Justice Enlow narrowed down the teachers he thought might be named.
“I wasn’t surprised because she’s a great teacher.”
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