Tennessee teacher wins Oscar of Education

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — At Dogwood Elementary School, a sea of ​​tiny students parted and turned to look at their teacher, Alexis Guynes, who was sitting in a row of bleachers, tears in his eyes.

Jane Foley, Senior Vice President of the Milken Family Foundation, had just announced Guynes as a recipient of the 2022 Milken Educator Award, a prestigious honor in the field of teaching. Foley called the awards “the Oscars of education.”

As Guynes processed her surprise — she thought she was attending a special ceremony that honors teachers, not her specifically — her fifth-grade students shook with excitement. Five students on the gym floor, each holding a sign with a number on it, also wobbled.

The students stood in a row holding placards that read “US$25,000,” the amount of money awarded as part of the Milken Prize. These students wobbled too.

Guynes, Foley later explained, was chosen after the Milken Foundation reviewed a portfolio put together by the state Department of Education. The portfolio describes the qualitative way Guyne brings education to life for her students.

These opportunities include reading a book to their class at the beginning of the day each day. It’s a time, Guynes said, “for us to come together as a class and check in.

Her immersive teaching style has been detailed by the Milken Foundation: students don goggles and lab coats for Mad Scientist Day, a lesson segment about Jackie Robinson ended with uniformed students taking to the school field for a baseball game, and March Madness morphs into a literary march of madness with a reading tournament where students vote on their choice for the best book.

Teaching, Guynes said, has always been her goal. When she started at Mississippi State College, she said she “knew right away what my major would be.”

“It’s my passion. I want to do that. I love my babies, my children. I love coming to work every day,” Guynes said, adding, “There are some days that are tough. You all make it difficult for yourselves sometimes.”

The students giggled in response.

Guynes continued, “But I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Her remarks were followed by a video message from Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, praising Guyne’s dedication to the profession.

Guynes is one of 40 teachers to win a Milken Award this year and the only teacher in Tennessee to have received an award. She is the first teacher in the Germantown Municipal School District to receive this honor.