Three outstanding educators to receive $25,000 national Milken teaching award

October 3, 2000

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Chicago – Perhaps it was fate that pulled Salvador Tamayo, then a high school student, into a classroom in which an Apollo astronaut was describing the awesome, inspirational beauty of seeing the earth from space.

That experience led Tamayo to teaching, and to a life-altering philosophy – that knowledge is of no use unless it is shared, and it is through sharing information that we invent, experiment, explore and learn. He has been living that philosophy for five years as a 4th, 5th and 6th-grade bilingual teacher at West Chicago’s Turner Elementary School.

Today, Tamayo should thank fate.

He 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.

Tamayo truly fits the Milken mold. Growing up in Mexico City, the eldest of five children heard early and often from his parents that they expected and would accept nothing less than a college degree from each of their children. “My parents conveyed to us their belief that a good education was necessary to be a responsible, contributing member of society,” Tamayo wrote.

Following a television production job in Mexico City, Tamayo came to the United States to better learn the field of communications. He took a job in 1995 as a teaching assistant just to earn extra money for school. But as it turned out, the experience changed his life.

Working with Hispanic students at West Chicago Middle School, Tamayo realized his true calling. “With teaching I feel I have found a way to share my experiences, use my creativity and contribute to the future,” he said. “To motivate children to learn and be excited about learning is much more important than television entertainment. It is important that my students share their knowledge and communicate with the world.”

Tamayo has been praised and honored for his work with students. Among other awards, he has received the Larry Stilgebauer Award of Excellence for Exemplary use of Technology in the Classroom in 1999; and the Illinois Computer Educators Web Showcase Award and first prize from the Computer Learning Foundation Adopt-A-Community Group competition in 1998.

Adrienne Johnson, in a letter nominating Tamayo for another teaching award, said it is no surprise that he has won several honors. He works equally closely with his students’ parents as he does with his students, she wrote. That has helped to ease the often-frightening transition to American culture, which in turn helps their children learn better, she said.

To his students, Johnson said, Tamayo “was much more than a teacher. He was their leader, protector and mentor.”

Also receiving Milken award today is Elizabeth (Betty) J. Du Pre’, the school administrator for the Donald C. Parker Early Education Center in Machesney Park, near Rockford. A third recipient’s name must be kept confidential until the educator is notified later this month.