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Los Angeles teacher wins $25,000 Milken award

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Jackie Bonilla knew there would be a special presentation Friday morning at Clover Avenue Elementary in Palms. She just had no idea it would be for her.

The second-grade teacher was surprised with the Milken Educator Award, an honor given to 40 teachers nationwide this year. The recipient also receives a $25,000 prize, no strings attached.

 

The honor is given by the Milken Family Foundation, which created the award in 1987 to motivate gifted teachers in a field that isn't usually rewarded with financial gifts.

 

The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo graduate is the only California teacher recognized this year and falls within the "most effective" category of district teachers in math and English, according to The Times’ value-added analysis.

During the 2011-2012 school year, when Bonilla taught third-graders, 87% scored proficient or above in English language arts on the California Standards Test.

Bonilla will now join "a great network of teachers" who have won the award in the past, said Shannon Garrison, a fourth-grade teacher at Solano Elementary School who received the award in 2008.

"That award changed my life. It created an immediate support system of people that think you're going to do great things."

Since receiving the award, Garrison was nominated by the foundation for a position on the National Assessment Governing Board -- the committee that sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, test, and she carried the Olympic torch in Edinburgh, Scotland, before the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Garrison said she still hasn’t spent the bulk of her prize, mostly using the money for classroom supplies and saving for a down payment on a house, “but if my kids or my school need something, I'll know it’s always there."

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-- Dalina Castellanos

Photo: Clover Avenue Elementary School second grade teacher Jackie Bonilla, center, is overcome by tears of joy as she is surprised with the $25,000 Milken Educator Award. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

 
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