Lander, Wyoming assistant principal surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award; ‘the Oscars of teaching’

    (Lander, WY) – Gannett Peak Elementary Assistant Principal Megan Park received the surprise of a lifetime at a secretive assembly held in the Gannett Peak gym today, March 12, after she was given the Milken Educator Award.

    Created in 1987 by Lowell Milken, the Milken Educator Awards “publicly recognize excellence in teaching not only to inspire educators, but also students and communities to “Celebrate, Elevate and Activate” the American K-12 teaching profession.”

    The prestigious honor, to be presented in 2023-24 at up to 75 schools across the nation, has been described as “the Oscars of Teaching.”


    In addition to receiving an unrestricted $25,000 cash award, Park will attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in June of 2024, where she will network with new colleagues, as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.

    Gannett Peak Elementary Principal Leslie Voxland acted as host for the ceremony, and was joined by Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop, Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder, FCSD #1 Superintendent Mike Harris and school board chairman Jared Kail, local legislators Sarah Penn and Lloyd Larsen, and a slew of staff and students.

    Voxland shared that she has kept this secret since January, and attendees thought the assembly was being held simply to hear a teaser of music teacher Brooks Whitmore’s upcoming school musical on Thursday.

    Brooks and his class of third graders then sang “Home on the Range” at the start of the assembly, accompanied by Gannett Peak paraprofessional Seth Finley on guitar.


    Following the adorable subterfuge, Bishop brought out a group students to slowly reveal the cash prize amount, with the entire school getting more excited as they kept adding zeros to the total.

    Following the cash amount reveal and building excitement of who was going to receive that surprise award, Park was officially announced as the next Milken Educator.



    “I am very surprised,” Park told the attendees as she held back tears while thanking the Milken group, her family and her staff/co-workers.

    “I have to say, I don’t work anywhere near 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 get to work with all of you. You all make life very fun.”

    Congratulations, Megan, Gannett Peak and Fremont County School District #1!

    Megan poses with husband Bryan. h/t Vince Tropea, County 10

    For more history on the Milken Educator Awards and Park’s background, check out the information provided by the Milken group below!

    Milken Educator Award

    The event was part of the Milken Family Foundation’s historic, nationwide tour reaching the presentation of the 3,000th Milken Educator in 2024.  

    The prestigious honor, to be presented in 2023-24 at up to 75 schools across the nation, has been described as “the Oscars of Teaching.”

    Journeying to the 3,000th Milken Educator, 2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall.

    The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the Award.

    Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.

    Megan Park’s background

    A Positive Impact: Assistant Principal Megan Park’s leadership has contributed to a positive climate and culture at Gannett Peak Elementary School. Park is highly visible in the school community, greeting staff and students in hallways and classrooms with contagious enthusiasm, conducting regular classroom walk-throughs, and adeptly addressing instructional needs throughout the school day. 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. 

    A former classroom and special education teacher, Park is largely credited for helping to ensure requisite structures and supports for meeting student needs. She works regularly with the school Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) coordinator on strengthening reading and math interventions and administering diagnostic tests to provide high-quality, tailored instruction. Park has also helped to increase positive student behavior. She has provided teachers with tools through implementation of a social and emotional learning program as well as organized a book study on school discipline. Her efforts have contributed to a notable decrease in students needing tier 2 and 3 interventions as well as strengthened communication and support through community circles.  

    Data-Driven Leadership: Park brings her data-driven mindset to the school professional learning community (PLC), where faculty uses student work to enhance teaching practices, inform decision-making and create a learning environment of high expectations with opportunities for everyone to excel. She is active on the school’s leadership team and school improvement team, and committees on curriculum alignment. Park has mentored student teachers, motivates colleagues, and engages with the Parents Interested in Education (PIE) group on campus. 

    Cultivating Connections: Always one to make education memorable, Park can be found dressed up on assessment days to promote positivity and confidence around achievement. At the state level, Park participates in the Wyoming Department of Education Level Up Leadership Group dedicated to enhancing the capabilities of education professionals through targeted leadership development that builds impactful leaders in the field. As she continues to broaden her reach, Park remains focused on her individual impact on students: The ceiling in her office showcases tiles to represent each class she has served. 

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


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