When Timpanogos Elementary School principal Rosemarie Smith learned that the state superintendent, the Provo School District superintendent and other local education officials would be presiding at a school-wide assembly on Thursday morning, she had no idea why. She didn't even know the purpose of the assembly.
"You wonder when you have people of this stature coming to your school," she said later.It wasn't until Scott W. Bean, state superintendent of public instruction, announced to a gymnasium full of enthusiastic students that Smith had been chosen as the winner of a $25,000 teaching award that it all made sense.
Still, Smith was stunned that she was chosen as one of six Utah educators to be recognized by the Los Angeles-based Milken Family Foundation. Three teachers from Salt Lake-area school districts found out Wednesday during similar assemblies they would receive $25,000, and two more unsuspecting Utah educators will have the same good news delivered to them on Tuesday.
"I am totally surprised," said Smith, who has served as principal at Timpanogos Elementary for the past 16 years. "Let me pay tribute to the staff here. They are the ones who should be receiving this award."
Recipients may spend the money in any manner they wish. Though Smith said she doesn't know how she will use her prize, she said at least a portion of it will benefit Timpanogos Elementary. "We went in hock for a new computer lab," she said. "We were looking for a way to pay it off."
Smith will receive her check in June, when she attends the Milken Family Foundation National Education Conference in Los Angeles, a three-day seminar on technology in education.
Members of the Timpanogos Elementary staff aren't surprised that Smith is being recognized for her efforts.
"She was selected because she puts the kids first," said Michelle Powell, who teaches third grade. "She works one-on-one with students and visits classrooms. We have incredible teachers here, but nobody cares like she does." Powell said her friendship with Smith dates back to when Powell was a student at Timpanogos, years ago. "She knew my name and knew who I was," remembered Powell. "When she'd pass me in the hall she'd say, `Hi, Michelle.' She always takes time to learn the names of the students."