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Lake Stevens Educator Wins National Award, $25,000
English teacher inspires students and colleagues alike

OLYMPIA — October 25, 2011 — Dan Alderson, an English teacher at Lake Stevens High School, has won the 2011 Milken Educator Award for Washington. The award includes a $25,000 cash prize.

Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction, was joined by State Sen. Steven Hobbs, Lake Stevens Superintendent Dr. Amy Beth Cook, School Board President David Iseminger and Dr. Tom Boysen from the Milken Family Foundation for the announcement this morning in Lake Stevens.

“Dan truly is a role model for all of us,” Dorn said. “He gives 110 percent every day in the classroom, among his colleagues and in the community. The minute we read his name, the gym erupted. Every kid and teacher in this school admires and respects him.”

Dan Alderson is a National Board Certified Teacher and a graduate of Gonzaga and City Universities. He began his professional career as a grocery store manager before he became a teacher and has taught at Lake Stevens High School for all of his seven years in the profession.

From his role as a school and statewide leader and his impeccable instructional talent to his technology expertise and even his attire – in every way, colleagues describe Alderson as the consummate professional. During his candidacy for National Boards, he frequently mentored. He also regularly presents to the Lake Stevens staff on subjects as varied as technology tools and better use of data.

Data drives many of Alderson’s teaching decisions. Recently, a group of students were struggling to meet standard in social studies. Alderson’s research uncovered that they were actually struggling readers. After that he was able to work with their parents and other teachers to get them on a plan to improve their reading.

Alderson is an advocate for standards based grading in the purest sense. Instead of completing an identical set of assignments with fixed due dates, students in his class can demonstrate that they meet standard in a variety of ways and on their own timelines. This means that Alderson provides approximately 150 different instructional plans – one for each student. Students of varying reading levels will work on the same concepts but with texts that are hand selected by Alderson for their abilities.

Alderson’s grade book remains essentially open for an entire unit as students are continuously meeting standard in a variety of ways. He has also worked closely with the district and parents to make sure parents can navigate this standards-based approach and easily understand where their students are on the path towards meeting standard.

Teachers regularly report that Alderson’s students arrive in their classrooms with excellent preparation, and his students frequently produce the most impressive writing for the school’s award winning literary journal. Alderson works to help his colleagues develop classroom-based assessments that give formative assessment data the school can use to adjust instruction on an ongoing basis. Alderson frequently has the highest percent of students meeting standard, and his former principal Ken Collins credits Dan’s work with helping the school bring its pass rate on the state assessment from 65 percent to 90 percent in reading and 68 percent to 95 percent in writing.

Although Alderson’s work is clearly driven by data, he understands that education is, at its core, about the individual story of each student. His commitment to that story is evident as he helps students examine their own lives for tales of heroism, when he walks beside a student who has failed as they make their way back to a place of pride and success and as he uses rap to coax poetry out of the most unlikely of students.

His colleagues Kati Tilley and Chris Neuman simply state: “Dan is just amazing,” and “He’s the best teacher I know. He’s one of a kind.”

About the Milken Awards
The Milken Educator Awards have no formal nomination or application process. Educators are recommended and reviewed without their knowledge by a Blue Ribbon Panel.

The award alternates each year between elementary and secondary educators.

Dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine, the award was established in 1985. Since then, more than $60 million has been given to winners. The purpose of the award is to attract, retain and reward outstanding K-12 teachers, principals and other education professionals who make important contributions to excellence in education.

During the 25th Annual National Notifications tour that began in October, up to 40 exceptional teachers, principals and specialists from across the country will be recognized. Recipients are notified by surprise at schoolwide assemblies, as an entourage of distinguished officials and media plus a Foundation representative and the state chief of education present the individual $25,000 award, which can be used however recipients wish. In addition, award recipients join the prestigious Milken Educator Network, composed of more than 2,500 Milken Educators across the nation, serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others shaping the future of education


About OSPI
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

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Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015

Assessment Communications Manager
Chris Barron
(360) 725-6032


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