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Grand Prairie High School math teacher surprised by Milken $25,000 award

laughing woman holding cell phone in left hand. behind her is a smiling man wearing glasses, wearing gray suit, white shirt, light blue tie near a door.
Bill Zeeble
Grand Prairie High School math teacher Emily Dickerson tells her husband - who's a teacher at a different school - that she just won the Milken Educator Award. It comes with $25,000. She said she'll probably use it to help pay their mortgage.

The Milken Educator Award goes to top teachers and gives instructors $25,000 with no strings attached. North Texas has had several recipients over the years. The latest - Emily Dickerson, who teaches freshman algebra at Grand Prairie High.

The announcement was disguised as an assembly to honor groups like the Gopher’s mariachi band and every sports team.

There was also talk about the importance of teachers. Lowell Milken, who created the educator award, took a mic to say sports stars and entertainers get recognized, but few honor their teachers. So he created the Milken award, which gives $25,000 to top teachers.

With microphone in hand, Milken told the crowd in the school auditorium "The Milken Educator Award goes to... Emily Dickerson…."

Dickerson, who came up through Teach for America, didn’t expect to be named.

"I probably would get in trouble for saying this. I’m an algebra teacher, I teach math and I love math but at the end of the day I don’t teach because of math and I tell my kids that," said Dickerson. " I want you to learn and grow in my class. However at the end of the day I want you to learn and grow as a human, I want you to recognize your value as a person and your ability to learn."

Dickerson is the first Grand Prairie teacher to win the Milken Award.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.