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Vinton teacher wins prestigious award and $25,000

Lindsay Murray stands by the white board her students decorated after she won a Milken Award. (Photo: Annie Andersen)
Lindsay Murray stands by the white board her students decorated after she won a Milken Award. (Photo: Annie Andersen)
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VINTON, Va. (WSET)-- A Vinton teacher is now $25,000 richer. W.E. Cundiff Elementary's Lindsay Murray is the only teacher in Virginia to win the award that's considered the Oscars of teaching this year.

The entire school gathered Wednesday morning for an assembly, but this wasn't just any assembly. This was more like a game-show style assembly.

After being introduced by the State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Steven Staples, it was up to Dr. Jane Foley to get the kids excited. She chose to do that in a lively and interactive way.

Foley, the Senior Vice President of the Milken Family Foundation, called students up to the front of the auditorium, giving them numbers to show how much one of their teachers would be winning. She then kept adding zeros, making the total amount bigger each time. The students were ecstatic when the amount reached $2,500, but then when Dr. Staples pulled out another zero, making the final amount $25,000, the students went crazy.

In Oscars style, Foley asked for the envelope, then announcing that 4th grade teacher Lindsay Murray would be the winner of the 30th annual Milken Award.

Even hours after winning, Murray said, "I don't think it's hit me yet. I think it's going to take a little time to process."

None of Murray's colleagues or students knew what would be happening, and neither did Murray, who said "None. None whatsoever. No absolute clue that this was going to happen today."

Most of the school just thought just thought they would be hearing from the state's superintendent of schools. Staples says, he learned about the award a few months ago, and started planning the surprise.

"It's one of the hardest secrets to keep because we have to engage folks in doing the planning, but we can't tell them what they're planning for, other than a school wide assembly," said Staples.

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Teachers can't be nominated for a Milken award, their work just has to set them apart. Foley explained, "She's known to have a strong emphasis on stem and project based learning. Her students are achieving at higher rates, even than across the school and across the entire district. We're looking for educators who are leaders in the profession. She is already a grade level team. She's been on district committees, state committees. We're looking for people who are unsung heroes."

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