SANTA MONICA, CALIF. Every morning, teacher Erin Wyatt shows her eighth-grade students what's in store, literally, by having some of her students help run the school store at North Harford Middle School in Pylesville, Maryland.
With her hands-on mentoring and pragmatic, down-to-earth approach, Wyatt ties social and emotional learning to academics with impressive results. She is boosting STEM scores, empowering young women and stitching together the social fabric in her rural community— while lifting students at all academic levels.
On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, Wyatt received a big lift at a surprise school assembly where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President, Dr. Jane Foley and Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon. As a 2019-20 recipient of the national recognition, Wyatt receives an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize.
She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Maryland this year, and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20.
The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching” has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years.
Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders.
"Erin Wyatt embodies the dedication and commitment that it takes to motivate and develop students," said Foley. “STEM education is essential to improving student outcomes and future success, and Erin delivers in this key arena of knowledge with a personal touch, institutional savvy and emotional connection to the community. We are thrilled to welcome her to our Milken Educator Network.”
Wyatt is bringing that future closer with a personal touch and true dedication to science education and her students’ needs, getting to know each one individually. Committed to community outreach, curriculum enhancements and staff development, Wyatt is a favorite with parents as well as the new teachers she mentors. She is also a magnet for appreciative former students who return often to visit this influential teacher.
“Erin Wyatt exemplified the innovation, enthusiasm, and dedication of teachers throughout Maryland,” said Salmon. “We are committed to equity and excellence in our schools, and she is a living example of both of these principles in action. Teachers like Erin Wyatt are changing young people’s lives and making a difference. We are proud that she has been honored in this way.”
The chair of North Harford’s science department, Wyatt is known as an innovative and exceptional educator who meets all students at their level of readiness and accepts them for who they are. She works with students at every academic level, from the gifted to challenged students on Individualized Education Programs. North Harford ranks fourth or fifth overall among the district’s middle schools, but its eighth-grade science scores land first or second. Wyatt’s students regularly surpass 80 percent on high-stakes testing. An African-American teacher in a district with limited ethnic diversity, Wyatt serves as a powerful role model for female, minority and STEM-focused students. Her pupils have earned first place in the school’s science fair, and Wyatt often arranges field trips to meet with scientists working in a variety of STEM fields.
“We are so proud to have Erin recognized by the Milken Foundation and especially honored as a school system to have the only Maryland recipient this year,” said Superintendent of Harford County Public Schools Dr. Sean Bulson. “It is not easy to do what teachers do every day; Erin is a shining example of all the ‘extra’ qualities that we look for in an educator. It is my pleasure to be a part of this well-deserved surprise."