Grand Island Teacher Receives National Educator Award


The life of a Grand Island teacher is about to change, as she wins an award considered the "Oscars of teaching".

The Milken Award is one of teaching's most prestigious, yet the winners don't even know they're in the running until the surprise announcement, like one Thursday that now finds two of the nation's best teachers in the same Grand Island school.

Number by number, students revealed just how big the prize award was, not $25 not $2,500 but $25,000.

"Ooooh," students said in unison.

A big number and a big guest announced one of teaching's biggest prices -- the Milken Award.

Governor Dave Heineman teased students at C. Ray Gates Elementary, "Do you really want to know who the winner is?"

Teachers expecting an election year visit from the governor got more, one got much more, with that $25,000 award.

Kids screamed as Sara Robinson's name was called. The fourth grade teacher was embraced by fellow teachers as the tears flowed, winning an award she didn't even know she was in consideration for.

"I wouldn't be the teacher I am today without all of you as part of my life," she told the assembly.

She told students it was a total surprise. Telling them she didn't want to cry, she joked she was glad she wore a dress for the governor's visit.

"I was kind of getting a little nervous, who's it going to be and then I was totally caught off guard. I did not expect that in the slightest. I just thought the governor was coming and
whole school was going to be here. I had no idea it was the Milken award," she said.

Back in her classroom, students went on with their "daily five", one of the initiatives Robinson has put in place to make sure kids are always reading.

"I'm writing a letter to Mrs. Robinson," one boy said.

Kids say Mrs. Robinson's the best, and her principal agrees.

Julie Martin said, "She truly is a lifelong learner. That gal takes any class, any course, reads every piece of literature that's new and excited for a new twist in her classroom. She's always looking for new innovations to get kids excited about learning."

Robinson said she loves working with children. "It's such a reward to find out what makes them tick and see them finally understand a concept and get excited about seeing them get excited for learning to read and learn new concepts in math or something, seeing how excited they can be."

This teacher's in for a wild ride, with invitations to come to share her teaching secrets. Her principal says the Milken award drops out of the sky, and Julie Martin would know, because she won 15 years ago and things were never quite the same.

"I knew nothing about the award," Martin said, but she sure knows now.

Sara Robinson has a $25,000 check to spend as she pleases.

"Let's see, I need a new car so this would help," she said.

More than that, she has the respect of educators nationwide, who sought her out for an award that no one applies for and most embrace humbly.

"It was a lottery. I was really surprised to hear my name," she said.

Sara called her husband who could brag he was at the trade show the governor visited on Wednesday. But she one-upped him, getting a big check from the governor and national

Robinson received a degree in elementary education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a Master's Degree in curriculum and instruction from Doane College. She received the Deans Academic Excellence Award for six semesters. She has received numerous grants for classroom technology and was nominated for the Gates Extra-Ordinary Person in 2011 and 2012 as well as for the Grand Island Public Schools' Teacher of the year in 2012.