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Thanks Teach! National foundation awards prize to MCHS’ Watkins

By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Photo Page arrivals Photo Page Commissioner hug Photo Page Dr. Clint Durley Photo Page Milken meets students Photo Page National Anthem Photo Page singing Watkins AwardEvery student, teacher, coach, faculty, staff and administrative member of Millington Central High School was present in the William Osteen Gymnasium Complex Thursday afternoon for a big announcement.
All sitting in the venue knew it was a important because Millington Mayor Terry Jones, Millington Municipal School Superintendent Dr. David Roper, Chamber of Commerce’s Diane Baker, Millington Aldermen and Millington School Board members were in attendance.
Camera and various media outlets also gave the vibe of major significance. MCHS Jazz Choir under the direction of Calvin Ellis and MCHS Principal Dr. Clint Durley kicked things off before handing the microphone to junior Jacqueline Alaniz to introduce Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen.
She had the honor of presenting Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. Milken addressed the gathering and finally explained the main reason for the assembly.
Milken announced the winner of one of the 2017 Milken Educator Award for excellence in education to MCHS’ Katherine Watkins.
“Overwhelmed, I am very surprised about this award,” Watkins said fighting back tears. “I had no idea. They did a good job of keeping the secret.”
The cameras, cell phones and eyes all went to a shocked Watkins as she made her way up to the podium to receive her award and $25,000 prize from the Milken family.
Watkins teaches 11th grade English at MCHS while also serving as the English department chair and professional learning community coordinator. Her list of teaching includes AP English literature and composition, dual enrollment, and Yearbook.
She is also the National Honor Society advisor and as a believer in a well-rounded education, Watkins spends summers teaching at a science, technology, engineering and math summer camp for middle school students.
“Katherine Watkins knows the value of preparing young people for success in an interconnected world,” Milken said. “Literature, and the history it tells, ties us to the generations before us and provides us with the knowledge and tools that inform our own roles in the world around us. Katherine’s lessons are beyond educational: They are palpable. I congratulate her on this award and am confident that she will impact the profession for decades to come.”
Watkins, a Memphis native, said she is grateful to have a chance to impact the city up north for the past three years.
“Millington is incredible,” she said. “This is a very special community with a lot to offer. I’m proud to be a part of all the good work that is happening here.”
What drove Watkins into the education field was her passion for Literature.
“I discovered I had a passion for students too,” she added.
Watkins was the center of attention. Milken was happy to provide the spotlight for the deserving educator.
As the camera began to shut off, the cell phones started to post on social media and eyes returned to other sites, Watkins was surrounded by her last period class hugging and congratulating her.
“It means everything,” she concluded. “The kids, I don’t think realize to the extent their gratitude motivates us to keep doing the work we do. It’s all about them. When they reciprocate and acknowledge what we do, it makes everything possible.”
The Milken Foundation is celebrating 30 years. In Tennessee, 66 educators have been recognized by the Milken Foundation since the program began in the state in 1992. Over the past 25 years that Tennessee has been a part of the program, more than $1.6 million has been awarded to Tennessee educators. For more information, visit

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November 2017
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