TEA News Releases Online
Oct. 22, 2009
Del Valle principal wins $25,000 Milken prize
AUSTIN - Adelaida Olivares, principal of the Freshman Academy at Del Valle High School, thought Gov. Rick Perry, Commissioner of Education Robert Scott and Superintendent Bernard Blanchard were coming to her campus today to salute the school for earning a Recognized rating from the state.
It’s true that the officials were pleased to see that the school had earned the state’s second highest rating but they actually came to the campus because of Olivares.
During a morning assembly, Olivares got the surprise of her life when she learned that she is a recipient of the 2009 Milken Educator Award. The prestigious award carries with it a cash prize of $25,000, which Olivares can spend on anything she wishes. Many past Texas recipients of the award have used the money to further their own education or that of their children or to make a down payment on a house.
She is one of only 50 educators in the country to receive the award this year. This is the 23rd year the Milken Family Foundation of California has recognized educators by honoring them in front of large student assemblies and by providing them with unrestricted cash prizes.
Dubbed “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher Magazine, the Milken Educator Awards were conceived by Lowell Milken, chairman of the Milken Family Foundation, to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and encourage talented young people to enter the teaching profession. He said, “Milken Educators represent the best of what the American teaching profession is and can be.”
The awards alternate each year between elementary and secondary educators. Since first presented in 1987 to 12 exemplary California teachers, the Milken Educator Awards program is now the nation’s largest teacher recognition program having honored more than 2,400 educators from coast to coast with over $60 million.
The educators never know in advance that they are under consideration for the award.
Olivares, the daughter of migrant farm workers, was selected for the award because in her short 10-year career, she has already earned a reputation as an educator’s educator, dedicated to bringing out the best in her teachers, her students, their parents and school volunteers.
She cares fervently about the students. Her passion to provide them with the best education possible provides infectious inspiration to her teachers.
“Adelaida Olivares is an inspiration to us all. She is living proof that one person can make a difference,” Scott said.
Olivares joined Del Valle immediately after college as a bilingual kindergarten teacher. By age 28, the district had named her principal of Ojeda Junior High School. After two years of success in that job, Olivares was named principal of the Freshman Academy, which is a school within Del Valle High School.
Before the creation of the ninth grade center, 45 percent of the high school freshmen were retained. With the steps Olivares has taken, the retention rate has dropped to 19 percent.
One of those steps involved creating a mandatory freshman orientation for students and parents. She did so because she realized that both students and parents did not understand the system of awarding course credits in high school. The first year she held the orientation, she offered 17 different sessions so people could attend whenever it fit their schedule. Orientation is part of her Pathways to Success program, which connects the school, the students and the parents to the success of each child. This program also helps students learn organizational skills and teaches them how to keep track of their assignments and grades.
Because she is bilingual, she is also able to speak to many families in their home language, which makes them feel more comfortable when they are at school. She has a strong relationship with the families because she has moved up with the students as they have advanced. She has now worked in elementary, middle and high schools.
One colleague says, “Students work hard for her because they love her and won’t let her down.” She feels the same way about the students.
“By shining a national spotlight on these exceptional people,” Milken said, “the Milken Educator Awards send a powerful message of the critical role that talented teachers play in preparing young people for a bright future.”
Olivares will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the Milken Educator Forum where she will receive her award.
Please contact Suzanne.Marchman@tea.state.tx.us for photos of this event. The photos will be available by Thursday afternoon.