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

October 3, 2000

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Chicago – It would probably be a waste of good time and energy to tell Betty Du Pre’ that she cannot do something.

The 26-year veteran educator, now the administrator at the Donald C. Parker Early Education Center in Machesney Park, does not seem to recognize barriers when they are put in front of her. Or more accurately, she just refuses to acknowledge them.

Du Pre’ 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.

Du Pre’ teaches as she leads, and leads as she teaches.

She has been praised for her ability to motivate her staff toward reaching goals and dreams that might, by some criteria other than her own, seem impossible, according to a committee of her peers in a letter nominating her for another award. “If it can be shown that a program, an idea or an approach might benefit children, Betty’s response is to seize the opportunity to make a difference,” the letter says.

Du Pre’ has had a lot of experience both recognizing and seizing opportunities in her tenure as an educator. As a college sophomore, she decided she would rather teach than go in to nursing as she had planned.

First, she decided to teach math and science at the secondary level. But she visited an elementary school during her junior year in college and again heard opportunity calling her in another direction.

Three years of teaching first grade at Olson Park School in the Harlem School District led to two years teaching specialized reading in the district. Du Pre’ then moved back to first grade at Marquette School for another 18 years.

But Du Pre’ was not through yet. Additional training led her to become the teacher/leader for her district’s Reading Recovery Program. At the same time she was also continuing her own schoolwork while training other teachers in special reading methods who went on to help scores of children statewide who needed a little extra help with reading.

Finally (at least, to date) Du Pre’ was named principal of the Park Early Education Center, a school designed for early childhood education using developmentally appropriate practices. She oversaw construction of a six-classroom addition to the school, which opened this past May.

As well she has helped make the school in a true community center, involving area senior citizens, helping to teach parents valuable skills and planning and coordinating numerous activities including Family Nights with educationally-themed activities focused on at-risk families.

“Betty is a model of innovative ideas, collaborative processes, thinking ‘beyond the box’ and creating an educational atmosphere where respect, opportunities and cooperation thrive,” her peers wrote.

And who knows? She may not be done yet.

Also receiving Milken award today is Salvador Tamayo, a 4th, 5th and 6th grade bilingual teacher at Turner Elementary School in West Chicago. A third recipient’s name must be kept confidential until the educator is notified later this month.