Waltham teacher surprised with national Milken Award
Derek Vandegrift, who teaches history to 10th and 11th graders at Waltham High School, is the state's 39th Milken Award winner. He is the only recipient from Massachusetts in 2011-2012, and joins more than 2,500 other national educators who have received the award since its inception, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Known as the "Oscars of Teaching," the Milken awards were established to provide public recognition and individual rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in education, according to a DESE media release.
"We are fortunate to have so many talented, committed teachers across the Commonwealth, and Derek is a shining example of the excellence we see throughout the profession," said Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "The best educators have the ability to inspire their students each and every day and instill a lifelong love of learning. Derek is one of those highly capable, inspiring educators, and we are lucky to have him in the classroom."
Vandegrift is committed to standards and project-based instruction, and differentiates his instruction to meet all students’ varying needs. He has led battle reenactments and is known to impersonate historians and historical figures. Vandegrift has been trained as a lead teacher under the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s Teaching American History Curriculum Development Lesson Series to create master lesson plans and model those exemplary lessons to fellow educators in Brookline, Cambridge, Newton, Sudbury, Watertown and Waltham.
Waltham Public Schools Director of History and Social Science Stephen Goodwin wrote about Vandegrift that he is "known throughout school as a thoroughly prepared, creative instructor to whom students flock. He is a dynamic teacher who creates a variety of opportunities for his students to participate in each class; his teacher/student centered cooperative classrooms can be found completing creative projects that reflect the state curriculum and enhance student understanding."
Recipients each receive a check for $25,000 and membership in the network of previous Milken winners.
An independent statewide Blue Ribbon panel of principals, teachers and other educators review dozens of educator portfolios and submit those to the Milken Family Foundation. The Foundation makes the final selection of recipients. Criteria for the award include exceptional educational talent and promise, skill in developing innovative and creative curricula and programs, commitment to professional development, and the ability to instill self-confidence in students.
For more information on the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards program, visit the Foundation's website at www.mff.org.