By Aaron Allen
The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. Each year an educator is honored with this award for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish in the future.
In an auditorium at Rainier View Elementary School on Tuesday, filled with young students, parents, faculty and special guests, the room was bursting with excitement as the keynote speaker Dr. Jane Foley of the Milken Educator Awards kept the audience in suspense on what the occasion was all about.
The occasion, Seattle’s Rainier View Elementary School principal Anitra Pinchback-Jones was this year’s Milken Educator Award honoree. A graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in Sociology in 2000 and Masters in teaching in 2001, Pinchback-Jones has been in education for 14 years, and the last eight years as a principal. Under her leadership, Rainier View’s students have delivered some of the highest achievement and growth scores in the state.
The academic achievement in the school is not by coincidence, Pinchback-Jones hold her students and teachers to a high standard and expects them to give their best effort every day.
“I believe in children,” says Pinchback-Jones. “I believe when you start young with children with giving them a healthy start with education, the world is a better place and I truly believe that.”
Addressing the student body and faculty of Rainier View Elementary School, Dr. Jane Foley, Senior Vice President of the Milken Educator Award states, “I traveled hundreds of miles and have been all across the country looking for educators who provide excellence in the teaching field and I am here to honor [Rainier View Principal Anitra Pinchback-Jones] for her excellent work.”
Pinchback-Jones’ commitment to her staff and students is evident every day, as she begins her school day gathering students and staff for an all-school meeting preparing them for the outstanding lessons for the day. Pinchback-Jones welcomes students each day, letting them know that their teachers are excited to see them and reminding her young people to do their best and to work hard.
Pinchback-Jones reinforces a culture of high standards and excellence in her students. She holds the same high expectations with her teachers as well. She encourages faculty to give new education reforms a chance and in turn, they often serve as a model for other schools to emulate.
“Our students deliver some of the highest achievement and growth scores in the state and some of the students post attendance records of up to 97 percent,” says Pinchback-Jones.
The Council of Great City Schools places Rainier View in the country’s top 1 percent of students of Color.
On receiving the award, which was a surprise to both Pinchback-Jones as well as the students and staff at the school, Pinchback-Jones went on to thank all involved.
“Thank you parents, community members, the Seattle Police Department, thank you for your partnership, thanks to school members and the superintendant of Seattle Public Schools as well as you the students,” proclaimed Pinchback-Jones with excitement.
“We worked hard,” she said to her students. “Give yourselves a pat on the back because of your hard work!”
“Yes, the students,” she exclaimed.
Educators do an unselfish job in teaching and nurturing our children and the appreciation sometimes falls short on the work that they do to ensure community’s children receive top notch education. Pinchback-Jones recognition is well deserved in her own right as she humbly accepted the honor for educators as a whole.
“I am so excited about this, humbled, surprised,” she said after receiving the award and the $25,000 check for her school that accompanies it. “But it’s just a re-affirmation of hard work, and partnership, a belief in education focused on teaching and learning with students makes everything possible.”
A strong leader in Seattle Public Schools, Pinchback-Jones also serves on the Principal Professional Development Team, planning and delivering ongoing education to help all the district’s principals improve their practices. As a literacy lead principal, she showcases excellence in literacy instruction, rolls out new literacy curriculum, and has designed professional development with teachers to support innovative literacy practices.
This is the second major award given to Pinchback-Jones in two weeks, as she received the Thomas B. Foster Award for Excellence last week from the Alliance for Education.