Montgomery Co. elementary educator receives ‘Oscar award’ of teaching

At Fairland Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, a gymnasium full of students erupted in cheers as one of their teachers was named the best of the best in the nation.

The students were celebrating third grade teacher Dion Jones being selected as a Milken Educator Award recipient.

This award is considered by some as the “Oscar award” of teaching, and only some 40 teachers across the nation receive it each year.

For Jones, the surprise was evident in his face when his name was called. The event in the auditorium, at which local and state leaders in education attended, was billed as a celebration of the school, disguising the actual nature of the gathering. But Jones soon realized, when his name was called, that this assembly was all about him.

“What a surprise that they kept from me, and it is hard to keep anything from me,” Jones said in accepting the award.

“Dion Jones’ impact has a ripple effect across his students, their parents, his colleagues and his community,” Dr. Jane Foley, Milken Educator Awards Senior vice president, said.

Since he was a boy, Jones said he has wanted to become a teacher.

“I am feeling just so humbled by this wonderful, wonderful, and how grateful I am to be chosen out of so many,” Jones said.

School Principal Lakeisha Lashley said she is not surprised that Jones received this award because he is an “amazing teacher.”

“Students under his tutelage grow; they grow exponentially, so when they are with him, they are growing so that is what makes him stand out,” Lashley said.

Lashley said one technique Jones uses, which caught her eye, is allowing students to help him teach the class. The technique really engages the young students, she said.

“I am simply excited and thrilled for Mr. Jones and this Fairland Elementary School community,” Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight said.

She said Jones will become an overnight celebrity in the school system, and she hopes to have him work with the school system to help recruit new teachers in the county.

Jones said while his friends wanted to be firefighters and police officers, he always wanted to be a teacher.

“I would give everybody the message — (who) is even coming up into education — to keep going because you’re needed in this profession to touch the lives of so many children,” Jones said.

Not only does the award come with national recognition, but also a $25,000 check. Jones joked that he doesn’t yet know what he’ll use the money for.

He said as he continues his career as a teacher, he plans to keep on living by his motto of “Whatever it takes,” when it comes to educating the children who come through his classrooms.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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