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Colorado Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones at Pine Creek High School District

November 1, 2007

Sierra Middle School mathematics teacher, Danny Uyechi, holds up $25,000 check

Students packed the bleachers in the gymnasium at Pine Creek High School in Academy District 20. There was a sense of uncertainty in the air. What was this unusual assembly all about?

Principal Todd Morse praised the students and the staff and then introduced Commissioner Dwight Jones, who reviewed the school’s strong record of student achievement and lauded the teachers for their effort and focus.

And then Commissioner Jones introduced Dr. Jane Foley, executive vice-president of the Milken Family Foundation.

Minutes later, math teacher Michael Arsenault was holding a check for $25,000 and the students cheered as if it was a last-second winning touchdown against a football rival.

The check was a complete surprise to Arsenault. Afterall, the Milken Family Foundation doesn’t take nominations or applications. They spot top teachers and honor them as part of a campaign to inspire today’s students to consider a career in teaching.

Commissioner Dwight Jones helped show how much money each teacher would receive prior to the surprise announcement of Michael Arsenault as the Milken Family Foundation award winner

This year, a total of up to $2 million in Milken awards will be presented to up to 80 secondary educators.

The teachers are also gathered together for a glamorous event in Los Angeles and they are called upon to examine ways to make K-12 schools more effective. Milken winners are considered part of a “family” of excellence. There have been more than 2,300 recipients since the inception of the award in 1982.

The Pine Creek High School scene was repeated later in the morning at Sierra Middle School in Parker as math teacher Danny Uyechi was showered with praise and another $25,000 check.

“This is really all about you,” Arsenault told the students. “I didn’t go into teaching right away; I kind of took a long path getting there. It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up, and now I’m doing something that I love.”

To close the assembly, the still-stunned Arsenault led the students in a hearty round of the school cheer. Uyechi smiled broadly at the thought of the check. His wife, he said, had occasionally urged him to take a higher-paying position as a mathematician.

Pine Creek High School students were all smiles for mathematics teacher, Michael Arsenault

“She wants me to get out of teaching because mathematicians can make more money in other fields, but I just can't because I love kids too much," Uyechi told Channel 7 News.

Uyechi, after all, does have needs. Danny and his wife have four children, all under the age of seven.

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