[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”396″ gal_title=”Kimberly Freeman”]
The hushed whispers of students in the gymnasium at Lexington Middle School grew to excited chatter and loud cheers in a matter of seconds as it was revealed Tuesday morning that one of their own was leaving the school that day with $25,000 and national recognition.
Latin teacher Kimberly Freeman won a 2015-16 Milken Family Foundation Educator Award during a surprise assembly attended by state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.
The Educator Awards, called the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine, began in 1987 as a way to honor teachers in the middle of their careers instead of only upon retirement. The Milken Family Foundation has been supporting innovation in education, medical research and public health since 1982, according to the foundation’s mission statement.
“We believe teachers have the most important job in the country because they are preparing (the next generation),” said Jane Foley of the Milken Family Foundation. “Good teachers make the difference.”
Students and teachers who gathered at the assembly were led to believe Lexington Middle School was receiving an award.
“Lexington Middle School is one of the finest schools in the state … One of the reasons you have such a great school is because of the teachers,” Spearman said.
Freeman attended Lexington Middle School as a student. She planned on a career studying law but said joining teacher cadets on a whim changed her career course.
“I’m really, really humbled. It’s a great time to be a teacher,” she said. “It’s days like today that remind us it’s the way to … reach the lives of so many people.”
Freeman is chairwoman of the World Languages Department at Lexington Middle.
“I firmly believe these students are the backbone of our democracy … They’ll do business on the other side of the world (one day),” she said.
[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Career highlights” collapsing=”false” float=”true” align=”right” width=”250″]
Lexington One District Teacher of the Year in 2013
International Baccalaureate Middle Years certified teacher
Lexington Middle School’s Latin academic team won first place at S.C. Certamen Competition in 2014
Eighth-grader Everett Fowler said being a part of Freeman’s Global Connections class has shown him it’s “important for students to expand their horizons.” He said Freeman keeps class engaging with interesting projects that have the students getting involved by doing research and making presentations.
“We’re never (just) sitting in our desks,” he said.
Freeman thanked the Milken Family Foundation for taking time to recognize teachers. She hasn’t yet made plans for spending the $25,000 but said she likely will put some of the money towards student loans and back into her classroom.
Freeman is the first South Carolina teacher to receive an Educator Award for the 2015-16 school year. The foundation awards an average of 50 teachers nationwide each year.