Milken Educator Award
2017 – Shannon Hill, Thermopolis
It was the surprise of a lifetime, when Shannon Hill was presented with a prestigious Milken Educator Award by Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Administrator Greg Gallagher. Hill is Thermopolis Middle School’s seventh- and eight-grade Health and Physical Education teacher. Hill’s dedication to her students is one of the many reasons that Hill was selected for this award.
Hill stated after learning that she had earned the Milken Educator Award, “I am completely humbled and overwhelmed. I was not expecting it at all and I just can’t wrap my head around it right now. I absolutely love what I do and I show up every day loving what I do, not thinking about awards, not working towards anything specific, just teaching the kids. I love the kids that I work with every day.
Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Hill’s honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.
Shannon Hill believes and demonstrates that physical health improves classroom performance. But kids will tell you they’re just having fun. In student climate surveys, they have rated her class as their second favorite part of school for two years in a row. And that’s no surprise. They enjoy 45 minutes of adventure every day as they swim, hike, bike, canoe, and even try archery.
Hill redesigned the Physical Education classes to promote safety and improve physical and mental health. She has presented its success during state and national conferences, including the National School Board Conference in March 2017. As students have become more active, math and reading scores at Thermopolis Middle School have steadily climbed. Five out of nine core areas at the school ranked top 10% in the state, and administrators credit this to the positive culture Hill has helped create.
Her PE model teaches kids skills they can use for a lifetime and maximizes various activities available in small towns that get students outside and on the go. Hill incorporates cross-curricular concepts, supporting math and literacy standards, within her physical education and health classes. Hill arranged to purchase 40 bikes so students could ride during class. Besides promoting health and fitness, the bike rides serve other educational purposes as well. The students bike to the grocery store (1 mile each way) and purchase fresh foods. The next day they learn how to cook healthy meals in class and use their math skills to calculate nutrition values. For mental stability, Hill engages students through lessons and surveys to improve self-perception and body image, stand up to peer pressure and avoid the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol. As an end-of-year treat for 8th graders, Hill sponsors an overnight camping trip. The trip has to be earned and students must keep their behavior in check to not jeopardize their standing.
Hill mentors new teachers on building strong student relationships and effective classroom management, and partakes in school duties beyond the classroom. She is the student-council advisor and an active member of the Bobcat Booster club raising funds for school activities. Hill also supports the high school as the head varsity girls’ volleyball coach, and hosts open gyms for other athletes to work out during practice. Active and visible throughout Hot Springs County, Hill has also changed the community. She coordinates the Ready, Set, Run program to get kids running and the annual Running with the Buffalo race, while her PE methods have extended to the high school. She hosts Challenge Days to teach at-risk students how to self-reflect and make better choices, and volunteers with students and community members to deliver Meals on Wheels on Sundays.
Hill earned her Bachelor of Arts in Health and Human Performance/Exercise Science in 2009 and her Master of Education in 2012, both from the University of Montana.
More information about Hill, plus links to photos and a video from today’s assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/Shannon-Hill.
The Milken Educator Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by Blue Ribbon Panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.
For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.