Third-grader Logyn Slates can tell you why Amy Stanislowski – “Ms. Stan” to her students and colleagues – is a great teacher.
“The way she teaches math, she finds easier ways for how to do math problems,” Logyn said. “That’s what so great about Ms. Stan.”
Stanislowski, a third-grade teacher at Dodge Literacy Magnet Elementary in Wichita, was named a Milken National Educator in a surprise ceremony at the school Tuesday.
In the world of education, the award, an initiative of the Milken Family Foundation, is close to an Oscar or a Grammy. It comes with an unrestricted $25,000 prize.
Stanislowski is one of 40 educators across the country – and the only one in Kansas – to be recognized this year for their innovative and exceptional teaching styles.
She received the award during an all-school assembly attended by local and state education leaders and Lowell Milken, co-founder of the California-based foundation.
“We are presenting this award to you because we believe you have potential in the future to accomplish even more,” Milken told Stanislowski.
“Thank you for making teaching your career. You’re making a profound difference in the lives of young people.”
The teacher giggled as she took the microphone, then turned to the Dodge Elementary students seated on the floor and said, “Can I get a woo-hoo?”
Stanislowski welcomes each of her students to the classroom each morning with a hug. In addition to being an innovator and the third-grade-level chairwoman at Dodge, near Second and West Street in west Wichita, she serves as a mentor to fellow teachers.
In past years, Stanislowski has hosted movie days to raise money to help tornado-damaged schools. When her class read a story about a girl in Ghana, she inspired the students to raise money to buy a water buffalo for a family in that African nation.
“I want them to believe that they can do anything they want to do. It doesn’t matter your financial background,” she said Tuesday. “I want them to be able to go to college, to be a good person, to succeed and to always work hard.”
As a Milken Educator, Stanislowski will join the nationwide Milken Educator Network of teachers, Milken said.
“Receiving this award, getting significant public recognition, is a validation of excellence in their mind,” he said. “What we want them to do is take that excellence that they portray every day and reach an even greater number.”
Teachers do not apply for the Milken award but are recommended by a panel appointed by each state’s department of education.
Bryley Smith, 8, says she likes being in Ms. Stan’s class because “she helps us when we need help, and she’s just really nice to us.”
“And she gives us candy,” added Rebekah Savage, smiling.
Stanislowski said she doesn’t yet know what she’ll do with the $25,000 prize.
“I’d like to help some of our kids in need,” she said. “And maybe take some classes, further my education.”