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Elkhorn Middle School principal receives prestigious national award

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
October 8, 2009
— Elkhorn Middle School students gathered at the school’s gymnasium Wednesday for what should have been a talk with Tony Evers, superintendent of the state Department of Public Instruction, about a college access program in Wisconsin.

The school’s seventh-grade band played, students and teachers filled the gym, and Principal John Gendron introduced guests from the department of public instruction and the Elkhorn Area School Board.


But Gendron was left speechless when it turned out the superintendent’s visit was a cover up for the presentation of a prestigious national to Gendron.


“I’m in shock, I really am,” the principal said. “I feel extremely honored. I’m somewhat embarrassed. I’m somewhat nervous, which I normally don’t get.”


Gendron was presented Wednesday morning with the Milken Educator award and joins a group of 50 educators nationwide selected as this year’s leaders of quality of education. He is the only Wisconsin educator to receive the award this year.


“It’s an award that I truly believe is for our school,” Gendron said. “I’ve been very grateful for our staff. I’m probably a little embarrassed that it’s me (receiving the award) because I think there are so many people in this building who have contributed to the success we’ve had.”


Colleagues credit Gendron with being a strong advocate for students, excellent communicator and skilled leader who encourages staff to strive for continued improvement. Since he joined the staff, Elkhorn Middle School test results have increased dramatically and underachieving students have connected more with educators, improving their performance over time.


The Milken Educator Awards is the largest teacher recognition program in the United States, according to officials at the California-based Milken Family Foundation. Awardees are teachers, principals and school staff working to further excellence in education. The prize includes $25,000 and a paid trip to Los Angeles for the Milken Educator Forum, a reunion of recipients from around the nation.


Evers said the award reflects the quality of education in Elkhorn.


“There is a sense of pride at Elkhorn Middle School,” he said. “Students work very hard to get good grades. They’re achieving well above state levels. I know everyone here understands the purpose of graduating, not just from middle school, but from high school and on.


“Students here are committed to their studies and future.”


District Administrator Greg Wescott said he and a few administrators knew about the award for about a month.


The only hint Gendron picked up was when a representative from the Milken Family Foundation arrived at the school and didn’t say what organization she was with.


“I said, ‘Are you with the department of public instruction?’” the principal said. “She goes, ‘I can’t tell you, but you’re going to find out later. They started setting up the camera and I told my secretary, ‘Something is going here.’


“But I had no idea.”


Gendron is looking forward to a trip to Los Angeles and meeting with educators from across the nation.


“I would like to share this with all of you, especially our staff,” the principal told a packed gym at the middle school. “We were a great school before; we’re an even better school today.


“And to students: You make coming to work everyday exciting.”



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