NORTH BEND – Just one teacher in all of Nebraska was recognized with the prestigious Milken Educator Award, and it happened by surprise – right here in Dodge County.
Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and never even know they’re under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation. The award itself is $25,000.
For Becky Streff, the process all began with chocolate milk. For fifth-graders in Becky Streff’s class at North Bend Central Elementary, that favorite beverage became the burning question in their new persuasive writing unit. Students researched and argued the pro and cons of chocolate milk in schools, eventually presenting their arguments to parents, the community and media. Streff smartly engaged students through their sweet tooth to tackle a real life question with practical implications, making them active agents in the world while enhancing their skills in reading, math, science and public speaking. Integrating nutrition, civics, rhetoric and STEM into a project-based task, and deftly tying it all in with the school’s overall curriculum, Streff lifted her class’s performance in reading scores. Her brand of creative thinking and educational innovation is a big reason why Streff’s students consistently exceed grade level averages in math, reading and science.
This morning, it was Streff who would have her outstanding achievements touted at a surprise school assembly where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Family Foundation Program Director Greg Gallagher and Nebraska Commissioner of Education Dr. Matthew L. Blomstedt. A surprised Streff was named a 2018-19 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Nebraska this year, and is among the 33 honorees.
“Becky Streff is a passionate teacher who fuels creative thinking and active engagement in her student’s lives. At the same time, she makes a real difference in the lives of her colleagues through constant collaboration,” said Gallagher. “We proudly welcome Streff into the Milken educator family.”
“Becky is a great example of what it means to be an outstanding teacher,” said Blomstedt. “She always engages her students and her fellow teachers to be the best they can be both inside and outside of the classroom.”
“Mrs. Streff provides sound instructional practices, exhibits a strong knowledge of the subject matter, and displays passion for the teaching and learning process,” said North Bend Central Superintendent Dan Endorf. “Mrs. Streff is confident in her abilities. An example of her self-confidence is the development of a classroom project for the district entitled Writer’s Café, in which adults visited school to hear the personal writings of her students. Mrs. Streff continually develops grant proposals, introduced a 5th grade graduation ceremony, and presents student achievement data to her colleagues on her own volition.”
Streff earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2004 and a master’s of teaching, learning and teacher education 2008 from the University of Nebraska, plus a master’s in educational leadership in 2013 from Doane University.
With no caveats on the usage of the awarded funds, Streff said she isn’t sure how she’ll use the funds yet, indicating that she would like to use part of the award for her family and part for an educational purpose. Past recipients have used their awards to fund their children’s education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarship funds, or even funded the adoption of children.