Photo by Jeff Thompson.
1112 Pamela Yau Smith Edgewood Milken Teacher Award
Edgewood Elementary School teacher Pamela Yau Smith received the Milken Family Foundation’s 2012 National Educator Award on Oct. 31.
On Halloween, the biggest trick in Homewood was played on Edgewood Elementary teacher Pamela Yau Smith. However, it was accompanied by the biggest treat.
That morning, during a school-wide assembly called for an entirely different purpose, no one was more surprised than Smith when she was announced as the recipient of the Milken Family Foundation’s 2012 National Educator Award. Known as the “Education Oscars,” the award is handed out annually to a select few teachers across the nation and includes an unrestricted gift of $25,000.
Dr. Gary Stark, president and CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching and the Milken Family Foundation’s representative for the event, presented the award. He was joined by Alabama Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice.
“To all educators, this award says you’re doing important work,” Stark said.
Smith, 31, a resident of Homewood, is Edgewood’s Learning Enhancement and Academic Design teacher. She has a degree in education from Samford University, which she received shortly before coming to Edgewood Elementary in 2004. She has been a lead teacher for the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative for five years and was a member of the final four for the 2011-12 Alabama Teacher of the Year award and 2011-2012 Elementary Teacher of the Year for Homewood City School System.
Smith presently instructs kindergarten through fifth grade students in science and math and said almost every day she hears a student chime, “This is one of the best days of my life.”
“I just do what I feel like the students love and need to know, so a lot of the activities I do are hands-on where they experience math and science, which they love,” she said. “They love getting their hands on things; they love problem solving. So I always try to connect what we do to something in the real world so they know what they’re learning in school has some meaning beyond their everyday lives.”
According to State Superintendent Bice, the selection process for the National Educator Award is rigorous and confidential. Teachers and administrators cannot apply but are recommended without their knowledge. Smith joins a group of 29 other recipients of the award from Alabama, and 13 of those attended the program on Halloween to welcome Smith into the club. Overall, she is now part of a nationwide network of more than 2,500 who have also received the National Educator Award.
After the presentation, Smith met with her new “family” of other recipients, where she shared that she came remarkably close to playing her own inadvertent trick on Halloween.
“I almost didn’t come today,” Smith said. “I really wasn’t feeling well this morning.”
“I bet you feel better now,” her husband, Bill, replied.