Carson Middle School music teacher receives Milken Educator Awards award
Carson Middle School teacher Nicolas Jacques nearly skipped to the beat of his students’ music Thursday when he was announced as a 2019-20 recipient of the Milken Educator Awards.
Jacques, one of two winners from Nevada this year, was welcomed with great fanfare by Gov. Steve Sisolak and his wife Kathy Ong Sisolak, State Superintendent Jhone Ebert, Milken Family Foundation members, Carson City School District personnel and Carson Middle School staff members and students at an assembly where he was presented with an unrestricted $25,000 prize and recognized for his achievement as an outstanding educator.
Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation, established his nonprofit in 1982 to encourage young teachers to pursue and continue in education as a career. The awards were first presented in 1987 and have recognized more than 2,800 educators in the nation in surprise events. Nominees remain top secret until schools, officials and students come together in assemblies like the one held at Carson Middle School on Thursday, where Jacques was greeted by his own band marching in and performing and then again as he was announced that he was the recipient from Carson City.
Jacques oversees CMS’ bands with 250 students who play in the program’s concert, marching and jazz groups. Students perform on campus and in the community. Jacques began the jazz band in 2013, and he’s built up a reputation to earn superior ratings among the Washoe County and Northern Zone band festivals. His students comprise 60 percent of the Carson City honor band, and six were chosen to participate in the All-State festival in 2018. Students also have performed at Disneyland.
Jacques ensures he equips his students with tools to improve their musical abilities to help them with their reading, learn their parts and assist with technology. He also created a newsletter and provides parents with website updates. He has gone out of his way on the extra items as needed with fundraisers to help students pay for uniforms, assist with chaperoning and driving students so they can attend rehearsals, concerts and festivals.
Jacques graduated in 2011 with a master’s degree in music education from the University of Nevada, Reno and received national board certification in 2018.
“We’re here because of other people and those people that nominated me made an enormous impact on my life, I’m sure, because they believe in me more than anyone else if they feel this way about me as their teacher at this school,” Jacques said Thursday after receiving the award.
Asked what he might do with his award, he answered, “I need to see about that new car, I’m definitely going to see about that.”
Former recipients of the Milken award provided words of encouragement to Jacques and shared their experiences as teachers. Milken educators are chosen early to mid-career based on their achievements to date and for what they are likely to accomplish going forward. The foundation provides $25,000 and recognizes them in public ceremonies and grants them membership in the National Milken Educator Network. They join more than 2,700 of the nation’s best teachers and administrators all working to improving education.
This year’s group of recipients have an opportunity to attend the Milken Educator Forum from March 26 to 28, 2020, in Indianapolis to network and hear from state and federal leaders. The awards program’s “Why Not Us” initiative also pairs 2019-20 recipients with former Milken Educator winners who serve as mentors to prepare their younger counterparts as leaders. The partnerships encourage growth and advocacy for school policy.
Sisolak said he was thankful to the foundation for recognizing outstanding teachers in the state like Jacques as well as his Las Vegas counterpart, Ben Nguyen, who teaches robotics at Sunrise Mountain High School.
“Mr. Jacques has taken his students to new heights, performing in numerous festivals throughout Washoe County and utilizing cutting-edge technology to help students become better musicians,” Sisolak said. “Improving K-12 education in Nevada is my top priority as governor, and empowering teachers like Mr. Jacques is how we make real progress.”
Jacques said he looks forward to another benefit of the award.
“I found out that in March we’re traveling out to Indianapolis and we’re going to meet with our network and we’re going to get acquainted with everybody else that’s a part of this honor and as a result of that, I know I’m going to be plugged into a network of people that will help me get in touch with educators that need that morale boost and need to find a way to tap into their inner potential when they’re feeling underappreciated and underpaid and undersupported in certain schools,” he said. “And they need to be the ones who become the leaders and become the innovators and champion change and champion inspiration to the schools, and I hope I can be a part of that down the road.”