Student receives educator award; former award winner calls it 'life changing'

October 9 2008

An Indiana State University doctoral student received a surprise Oct. 6 in the form of a $25,000 check and a National Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation.

"This is such an honor," said Nicole Law, who is principal of Garden City Elementary School in Indianapolis and is working on a doctorate in elementary education and supervision. "I'm on cloud nine."

Brad Balch, ISU dean of the College of Education, said he wasn't surprised that Law was chosen for the award.

"She was part of a wonderful cohort of doctoral students and her opinion in the residence experience was greatly valued," he said. "I know her work in Indianapolis area is important work and to have that validated externally is certainly a reward for Indiana State University as well."

Law has spent 13 years in education, with six of those in administration.

"We are proud to recognize this outstanding Hoosier educator for her achievements," Suellen Reed, superintendent of public instruction, said. "Nicole is an excellent example of how dedicated school professionals can truly make a difference in ensuring our students succeed."

Lowell Milken, chairman of the foundation, said the awards were conceived to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and to encourage talented young people to enter education.

"Nothing in America's K-12 schools has more influence on student learning than the quality of the classroom teacher," he said. "Highly effective teachers are the bedrock in constructing a world-class education system that meets our challenges and opportunities in this 21st Century."

Garden City is a school where 90 percent of the students are eligible to receive free or discounted lunches, an indicator of poverty level for the school.

"Nicole embraces the diversity of her school, looks beyond the poverty to the potential and has created a school environment in which all students can achieve at high levels," said Mary Ann Dewan, assistant superintendent of Wayne Township and an Indiana State graduate.

Law is one of 80 teachers honored across the United States this year with the award.

"I was so surprised and I'm truly proud to be an educator," she said.

Another Indiana State University graduate, who received the award in 1998, called it life changing.

"It was really not about me as much as it was about the work," said Cathlin Gray, who received her master's and doctoral degrees in education from Indiana State and is now associate superintendent for family, school and community partnerships with the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.

Gray received the award when she was principal at Cedar Hall Elementary School and was a part of team of community leaders and school officials working to address the needs of children and families in an at-risk community.

"We were working to become a full-service community school," she said. "Our work involved working the community, leveraging resources and wrapping services around children and families. The model yielded great results."

The impetus of the award caused that model to become something larger.

"The award helped bring recognition to our work and helped fuel and grow the movement," Gray said. "It has now become a model being embraced by our school district."


Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, 812-237-7972 or

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An Indiana State University doctoral student received a surprise Oct. 6 in the form of a $25,000 check and a National Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation.

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