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Barboursville teacher wins national educator award

Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:20 PM

BARBOURSVILLE -- Whitney Stead, a kindergarten teacher at Village of Barboursville Elementary, was stunned to learn Thursday morning that she is the state's Milken Educator Award winner.

Stead was speechless when she was handed a $25,000 check that she can use however she sees fit. And she was brought to tears knowing her family's finances were made stable once again.

Stead, who is nearing the end of a maternity leave, was tricked into coming to the elementary school Thursday morning for an assembly with new state Superintendent James Phares. She was told they were honoring National Board Certified teachers, which she completed in 2009. But the real reason was to present her with the award.

"When it rains it pours," Stead said, referring to blessings in her life in the past year.

Stead gave birth to twins less than three months ago after undergoing fertility treatments. The process wasn't covered by the insurance she and her husband Matt, a teacher at Cabell Midland School, have.

"We're broke from that," Stead said. "So we will definitely use the money."

She may also be springing for a pizza party for her fellow teachers, whom she said all work hard to make Village of Barboursville a great school. One in particular, though, has most of her affections.

Her mother, Brenda Bunn, also teaches kindergarten there and couldn't muster many words without being overwhelmed by the moment. Later, she said it's every mother's hope that a child has that respect and wants to be like them.

"If I'm a good teacher, the only way I can accept this is to say I followed in my mom's footsteps," an emotional Stead said after receiving the award. "She's my role model."

She returns to work in three weeks and said she can't wait to get back to her students. She said teaching kindergarten is like going to Disney World every day.

"It's the most fun job in the world," Stead said. "I try to give my best every single day, but this will push me so much more to help others."

The West Virginia Department of Education's communications office handles the nomination process for the Milken Educator Award. Liza Cordeiro, who directs the communications office, said she accepts nominations for what people think is a state award. Then the nominees are reviewed, some are interviewed and five are sent to the Milken Family Foundation in California, where the ultimate choice is made.

Candidates are selected based on criteria that includes: exceptional educational talent evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school; exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession; strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.

Jane Foley, the senior vice president for the award program and a past recipient, said she gets so much joy out of going around the country to surprise teachers with the award. She said they originally were going to give Stead the award in November but rescheduled the trip when they found she had just had her twins. But it was worth the wait, she said, to be able to reward a hard-working, well-deserving teacher.

"We don't think educators get enough recognition," she said before announcing the winner. "We just don't say 'thank you' enough.

"We wish at the Milken Foundation we could award every teacher who makes (Village of) Barboursville a successful school," Foley said.

Along with being National Board Certified, Stead also spent the summer of 2011 as a trainer at the Teacher Leadership Institute in Morgantown and was named an Exemplary Teacher of the Year for Regional Education Services Agency 2, which includes Cabell County.

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