Local News

Excellent Teaching Nets 25,000 Surprises

Posted October 14, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Some Cumberland County students, parents and teachers gathered for an elementary school assembly Thursday.

Standard stuff. Usually. Instead, they were treated to front row seats while state school leaders revealed a secret that left one teacher speechless.

The students were given a question. How much money is enough reward for good teaching?

North Carolina's state school Superintendent asked E.E. Miller Elementary students to help figure it out.

Would $250 be enough to say thank you to a great teacher?

"No!" the students declared. The crowd said it should be more.

"Two thousand five hundred dollars. Is that enough to say thank you to a great teacher?

Again, the children roared "No."

In fact, one teacher was about to get $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation -- cash to spend however the teacher chooses -- and the reward was a surprise until the very end.

Then, everyone learned that the teacher chosen was Laura Candler.

"My heart just dropped. I was so happy," Candler said later. "I couldn't believe it was me."

The award comes with no strings attached, along with a free trip to Hollywood with the other Milken winners -- 144 teachers from 42 states. A rare honor, indeed.

"I'm just so impressed with so many teachers that I come into contact with both in Cumberland County and, really, around the world," Candler said. "And, their dedication to children and the things they do and the ideas they share. I just wish more teachers could be honored this way."

Candler says she will have to think about how she will spend her windfall. Maybe she will get some ideas from the fans who inspire her to be a fine teacher every day.

The Milken Foundation honors teachers nominated for excellent work by state and local school systems.

North Carolina has four winners: Candler plus one teacher each in Bladen, Buncombe and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.