Carlinville West Elementary teacher to receive
$25,000 national Milken teaching award

October 16, 2000
Further information, call:312/814-3490

Springfield – Most people don’t wait 17 years to decide what they want to be when they grow up.

Bobbi Klaus, a teacher of eight years at Carlinville’s West Elementary School isn’t like most people, though. She is an exceptionally unique person in many ways, not the least of which is that she decided to become a teacher after 17 years in another, completely unrelated career.

But Klaus is also unique in that she is one of three Illinois teachers named Milken National Educator Award recipients. Each winner will receive $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation, which they can use for any purpose.

The award is given annually to teachers demonstrating exemplary teaching skills and personal commitment to education. This year, 145 teachers in 42 states will receive Milken awards. To date the Milken Family Foundation has honored 1,647 teachers, distributing $41.2 million, including $3.6 million this year.

Klaus truly fits the Milken mold.

“One of (Klaus’) foremost qualities is her ability to continually and nonverbally express her love of teaching, love of learning and the love she demonstrates for her students,” wrote West Elementary Principal Bill Alexander in a letter nominating Klaus for another award.

“These emotions lead to community support, increased staff effectiveness, higher school morale and a shared pride among all students and staff toward West School,” Alexander wrote. “To students this translates to true personal achievement.”

Klaus is a self-described “late bloomer.”

Long harboring a dream to teach, Klaus said she simply got caught up in everyday living, including marriage, raising two pre-teen daughters and holding down her full-time job as an administrative assistant for the local health department.

But successfully completing a computer training course convinced Klaus that returning to school wouldn’t be so bad. She dove back into her own education, while still working full-time. Klaus graduated summa cum laude from Blackburn College in 1992 – at the age of 42.

She hit her new career running as a Chapter 1 math teacher with the Carlinville School District. In her first two years as a specialized math teacher, Klaus and her teaching partner developed and implemented a six-week family math program.

But, she said the fun and fulfillment really started in 1994 when she took on her own fifth-grade classroom. In that role she worked with the State Board of Education’s pilot of a program called “Near and Far Science.”

That experience let her meet many of Illinois’ top scientists, and to win a $10,000 Toyota Tapestry grant in 1998. Using the grant to buy technology and field experiences for her rural student population, Klaus was named the district’s “Teacher of the Year” in May 1998.

This past summer, Klaus and eight other Illinois elementary teachers took part in the “Space Science for Illinois Teachers” program. They spent a week at the Goddard Space Center and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland/Washington D.C., learning from scientists involved in unmanned space exploration.

They will mentor other teachers statewide this school year and will encourage teachers to utilize NASA’s vast resources for classroom instruction.

Remembering back to that day when she decided to pursue teaching, Klaus said she recalls thinking, “If I was going to take classes, I might as well go after something I truly desired.”

Her students, fellow educators and community are glad she did.

Also receiving Milken award earlier this month were Elizabeth (Betty) J. Du Pre’, the school administrator for the Donald C. Parker Early Education Center in Machesney Park, near Rockford, and Salvador Tamayo, a 4th, 5th and 6th-grade bilingual teacher at West Chicago’s Turner Elementary School.