An unsuspecting Waltham High School history teacher received $25,000 and a prestigious national teaching award at an assembly today, according to Massachusetts education officials.
Derek Vandegrift, who teaches 10th and 11th grade history classes, is the 39th teacher in Massachusetts - and the only one in-state this year - to win the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, which is awarded to dozens of American educators.
The program has given more than 2,500 teachers, principals and specialists over $63 million in individual, unrestricted $25,000 awards over the past 25 years, according to the Milken Foundation's website.
There is no formal nomination or application process for the award. Each participating state's education department appoints an independent blue-ribbon committee to recommend candidates.
The award was presented to Vandegrift by Milken Educator Awards senior vice president Jane Foley, and the commissioner of Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell Chester.
Predetermined criteria for the award include exceptional educational talent and promise, skill in developing innovative and creative curricula and programs, commitment to professional development, and the ability to instill self-confidence in students.
Presenters in Waltham said Vandegrift possessed all these positive qualities as an educator.
"We are fortunate to have so many talented, committed teachers across the Commonwealth, and Derek is a shining example of the excellence we see throughout the profession," Chester said. "The best educators have the ability to inspire their students each and every day and instill a lifelong love of learning. Derek is one of those highly capable, inspiring educators, and we are lucky to have him in the classroom."
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