Empire teacher gets big award | NevadaAppeal.com

Empire teacher gets big award

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

By Dave Frank

Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

Gayle Magee looked around at the students and photographers as she talked with other Empire Elementary teachers about what was happening in the multipurpose room Wednesday morning.

It must be for something important, they told her.

But what? She wanted to know.

“It’s for one very special person,” computer teacher LeAnn Morris told Magee as they waited for the assembly to start.

A half hour later, Magee was named the winner of a $25,000 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. She touched her chest when her name was called.

“I couldn’t even stand up,” said Magee, who has taught first and second grades at Empire Elementary for seven years. “I was like, ‘Whoa.'”

Five Carson City middle school teachers have won the award since the program was started in 1985, but Magee is the first city elementary teacher to get it.

Teachers cannot be nominated for the award and are picked after being observed, said Michael Milken, the co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation and a former financier who pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 1990 then spent almost two years in prison.

Magee might have been surprised by the award, but people at the school said she deserves it more than anyone.

Morris said Magee is known for using technology to help students learn, like how she has students take digital pictures and use those pictures as a writing prompt.

“I’m so excited,” Morris said. “She’s so so deserving.”

Lauren Urbina, a second-grade teacher, said she’s impressed with what a creative and energetic teacher Magee is. She said she would know because her classroom is across the hallway from hers.

The Milken Family Foundation listed several reasons why they chose her for the award including: Coordinating the school science fair, bringing up students’ test scores, using technology in the classroom and starting an after-school robotics program for fourth- and fifth-graders.

Magee’s students said they like her because she’s helpful and fun.

Nathan Hillman, 6, said one of the things he’s learned from Magee is fire safety. He said she taught him how to check to see if a door handle is a hot during a fire and what to do when one happens.

“When the alarm is on, you have to call 911,” he said.

Randy Herrera, 6, said she Magee has students draw a “circle map” to help them tell stories about things from seasons to moths.

“I love her,” he said.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.