Lander Educator Surprised With Prestigious Milken Educator Award For Wyoming

Lander Assistant Principal Megan Park was surprised Tuesday morning with a $25,000 cash prize as part of the Milken Educator Awards. The national award is known in education circles as the “Oscars of Teaching.”

Ellen Fike

March 12, 20243 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Megan Park probably wasn’t expecting to receive a life-changing award and large chunk of change when she arrived for work as usual for her job as assistant principal at Gannett Peak Elementary on Tuesday morning.

But when she walked into the schoolwide assembly with students, colleagues and many other guests, it was just the beginning of the surprise of a lifetime when she was announced as the newest Milken Educator Award recipient for Wyoming.

“Today we honor Megan Park, whose unwavering leadership and innovative spirit have not only contributed to the positive culture at Gannett Peak Elementary, but have also left an indelible mark on students, colleagues and the broader community,” said Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop during the ceremony.

“Megan’s ability to unify everyone around high expectations for academic and personal growth reflects the high-caliber educator she is — intentional, compassionate and committed to results," Bishop said.

The award includes an unrestricted $25,000 prize, meaning recipients can use the money however they please.

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder said Park's "exceptional leadership" empowers everyone.

“Megan Park’s commitment to community, academic success and the emotional health of her staff and students is reflected in the positive outcomes at Gannett Peak Elementary," Degenfelder said at the ceremony. "Congratulations on receiving this very special award and representing the quality of education leaders in our state.”

In addition to the cash prize, Park will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles this summer.

"I am very surprised," Park said when she received the award. "Cougars, I don't even work nearly as hard as all your teachers do. They are pretty awesome people and I feel very fortunate to be able to work in this school and to work with all of you. You guys make life really fun."

  • Gannett Peak Elementary Assistant Principal Megan Park learns Tuesday morning that she was the recipient of the $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Wyoming.
    Gannett Peak Elementary Assistant Principal Megan Park learns Tuesday morning that she was the recipient of the $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Wyoming. (Milken Family Foundation)
  • Megan park 2
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Megan park 3
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Megan park 3 3 12 24
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Positive Leadership

Bishop said Park was selected for the award because of her leadership contributing to a “positive climate and culture at Gannett Peak Elementary."

She is a regular presence within the school community and is often seen enthusiastically greeting staff and students in hallways and classrooms, conducting classroom walk-throughs and addressing instructional needs throughout the school day," Bishop said.

“Her passion for fostering professional, academic and personal growth is evident in everything she does, from helping lead professional development and building individual relationships with colleagues, students and families to participating in sporting events and recitals,” Bishop said.

Park is a former classroom and special education teacher and is credited for helping to ensure requisite structures and supports for meeting student needs, according to the release.

She has provided teachers with tools through implementation of a social and emotional learning program, as well as her organization of a book study on school discipline.

Park earned a Bachelor of Science degree in special education in 2010 from Montana State University and a Master of Arts in 2020 from Western Governors University.

The Milken Awards are known as the “Oscars of Teaching.” As many as 75 educators across the country will be honored, according to the news release.

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Ellen Fike