Md. educator honored for ‘exemplary,’ ‘unheralded’ teaching

Hanington, center in blue t-shirt, with her colleagues and students, as well as Md. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
Hanington is picked from the crowd by surprise.
Hanington receives her check in front of a cheering crowd, including Md. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
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Kate Ryan, wtop.com

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Kids want to be in her class, and principals want to clone her.

Madeline Hanington, a sixth-grade English teacher at Gaithersburg Middle School, got a very special surprise on Tuesday when she was named a Milken Foundation Educator. At an assembly in the school’s gym — where students, colleagues, and Md. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown were waiting — she was plucked from the crowd and presented with a $25,000 check to spend any way she’d like.

“This is incredible, I am so blessed,” Hanington said, adding she had no clue that she’d be getting the award from the Milken Family Foundation. She fought back tears as she spoke and joked she didn’t know what to say.

“That’s hard for me, because I always have something to say,” the educator said. She thanked her colleagues and administrators, but then said with a shaky voice as her students cheered, “Most of all, I love these kids, so guys…thank you so much.”

As for how she will spend the $25,000, Hanington’s fellow teachers joked she could finally go on a trip abroad she’d been wanting to go on. When asked by reporters, she replied, “Oh, I don’t know, it’s all new.”

Hanington is one of just 40 educators across the country given a Milken award. She was recognized for her ability to raise student achievement, her ability to engage with parents and for her innovative style in the classroom.

The organization website lists rigorous criteria for candidates, who are nominated confidentially and appraised by “blue-ribbon committees.”

Criteria includes:

  • Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school;
  • Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession;
  • Individuals whose contributions to education are largely unheralded yet worthy of the spotlight;
  • Early- to mid-career educators who offer strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and
  • Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.

Gaithersburg Middle School Principal Carol Goddard says kids who are no longer students in Hanington’s classroom continue to seek her out.

“If I could clone her, the world would be a perfect place,” Goddard said.

Students describe her as “awesome”, “energetic” and “super-nice.” One seventh-grader said, “She gives everyone a chance to learn, and I really love her, because she’s always there for us.”

Hanington says she always wanted to teach.

“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. And if I can make a difference, like one of my former teachers did in my life, then I need to pay it back.”

She recalls that teacher without a moment’s hesitation: Mr. Rogers, Brentwood High School, class of 1982.

She laughs, realizing she’d just dated herself, but then turned to hug her students, and get ready to go back to class.

Follow Kate Ryan and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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