Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Gateway Teacher Wins Big Award

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Gateway Teacher Wins Big Award

Article excerpt

Jennifer Hoffner-Turkowski, a first-grade teacher at University Park Elementary School in the Gateway School District, sat in a school assembly Tuesday expecting to hear the entire staff and student body commended for the school's performance on the 2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams.

Instead, she found the kudos at the assembly, attended by state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, were directed solely at her.

In a surprise presentation, Ms. Hoffner-Turkowski, a Gateway teacher for eight years, received the 2012 Milken Educator Award, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 prize.

She is the 51st teacher in Pennsylvania to receive the national award since 1994 and the only one this year. The Milken Family Foundation will give up to 40 awards nationwide this year.

"I'm just completely overwhelmed," said Ms. Hoffner-Turkowski, 38, of North Huntingdon, when her name was called and students jumped to their feet cheering.

But she quickly focused on the fact that the award was due not to her alone but to all of her colleagues at the school.

"It's a team here at University Park that makes the school great. This award is not just for me. It's for all of you," she said to the crowded auditorium.

To keep the award a surprise, principal Brian Werner told the staff and students the assembly was to celebrate the school's good work on 2012 PSSAs. But shortly after everyone was gathered in the gymnasium, Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and Milken Family Foundation, explained that she had come from Santa Monica, Calif., to honor an outstanding teacher at the school.

"One of the best teachers in the entire country is here in your school," Ms. Foley said, prompting the elementary students to scan the room.

She told students the award could be compared to an Oscar received by an actor and said the Milken Family Foundation was established to assure that teachers get the same recognition as actors, scientists and other professionals. …

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