SOMETHING obviously inccongruous about an award for educators sponsored by former junk-bond king Michael R. Milken.
Once the oddity of it is digested, however, focus can turn to what the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award stands for and the enormous achievements of this year's recipients.
The foundation bearing Mr. Milken's name is part of the former financier's restitution for securities fraud violations, but the purpose of the award is to acknowledge individuals who have been true innovators in education.
Maryland boasts five winners this year out of about 150 across 30 states: Kenneth T. Gill, principal of Elkridge Landing Middle School in Howard County; Faustena "Penny" Vahsen, a teacher at Magothy River Middle in Anne Arundel County; Peter R. Litchka, a teacher at North Carroll High in Carroll County; Gerald R. Boarman, principal at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Prince George's County, and Miriam B. Dyer, business education teacher at Colonel Richardson High in Caroline County.
Each has received a $25,000, no-strings attached grant. The common thread that ties them is dedication. Each recipient is known as an educator with a commitment to student learning that extends well beyond what is considered routine.
In the Baltimore region, the strong suit of Howard County's Ken Gill springs from leadership.
As chairman of the school system's Human Relations Task Force in 1992, he played a pivotal role in guiding the system out of a period of deeply troubled race relations. As principal of Wilde Lake Middle and now Elkridge Landing, Mr. Gill has directed programs in peer mediation and improving student achievement.
vTC Most notably, his work to coordinate the MASSI program (Motivation, Assessment, Structure,Support, Instruction) at Wilde Lake has served as a model for reaching low-achieving students in the county, particularly minorities.
All these educators have infused the classroom with a life's love of teaching. They deserve our accolades.