OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — The only teacher in Kentucky to be awarded a Milken Award in 2012 says he "loves" working with children.
Cravens Elementary School teacher Ryan Williams was one of 40 people across the nation to receive the honor, which "rewards exceptional educators" with a $25,000 gift.
Williams, a native of Henderson, began teaching in Owensboro Public Schools after graduating in 1999 from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. He taught first grade for 11 years, then moved to third grade. Currently, he is on temporary assignment as curriculum facilitator at Estes Elementary School.
"I try to engage the students every day, find something that interests them, something they can relate to," Williams said. "I love working with the kids at Cravens and Estes. I come to work every day with a smile on my face."
Jane Foley, senior vice president for the Milken Educator Awards, told the Messenger-Inquirer (http://bit.ly/V50u3M) that the organization looks for "unsung heroes" of the profession.
Williams says he became a teacher because he "wanted to make a difference."
"I love being that positive, male role model so the kids can look up and say (to themselves), 'I can do things in this world,' " Williams said.
The Milken Family Foundation gives the awards each year to "reward, retain and attract the highest quality K-through-12 educators to the profession," according to the organization.
"We're looking for educators with innovative practices that are tied to student results," Foley said. "We're looking for educators who are leaders not only in the classroom, but leaders in the profession, and Mr. Williams is on committees at the school and on the district levels."
In addition to being a National Board Certified teacher with a master's degree, he is director of the Cravens iPad Academy and has served on Cravens' school-based decision-making council, has participated in the Owensboro Independent Academic Leadership program and is a member of the Owensboro Education Association, the Kentucky Education Association and the National Education Association.
"Ryan is one of those exceptional teachers who has an innovative, enthusiastic and nurturing spirit," Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent Larry Vick said. "He inspires his students to achieve at high levels and to believe in themselves."
Third-grade teacher Katy Harrison called Williams a mentor.
"He really helped me grow as we've embraced some new things at Cravens," she said. "We're teaching critical thinking where we, instead of giving students all the information, provide a safe environment for them to work with their peers in problem solving.
"We've run into situations where kids didn't know how to solve problems because (teachers) told them what to do. Now they're growing to be thinkers."
Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, http://www.messenger-inquirer.com