An English teacher from the Utica Community Schools got a pleasant surprise Oct. 1 when he learned that he had won a $25,000 national award.
Mark Julien, who teaches at Henry Ford II High School in Sterling Heights, received the Milken Educator Award during an assembly at his school.
Julien said that when the assembly was first announced, he thought Newsweek had put Ford back in its list of top high schools. He said he was “stunned” to hear that he’d won the Milken award.
“In 24 hours, I have been flooded with emails and messages and Facebook posts,” he said. “The majority of them are from former students and parents of former students.”
According to the Milken Family Foundation, Julien’s award was the only one to be awarded to a Michigan teacher this year. Michigan has been home to 84 of the award’s winners, and they have collected $2.1 million in cash prizes, according to the group.
The foundation members listed several of Julien’s traits that impressed them. The teacher is credited for helping students prepare for the ACT standardized college admissions exam. In his Advanced Placement courses, students who take AP exams for possible college credit outperform the national average, they said.
The foundation said Julien has also played a role in putting together the curriculum for Utica Community Schools students. It also cited his use of online resources to teach lessons and perform other classroom operations. To top things off, he is an assistant coach with the varsity baseball program.
Julien said he doesn’t know how the foundation found out about him. As a teacher, he said, he is constantly assessing himself and his performance.
“If you teach … sometimes you’ll have the same class two or three times,” he said. “From hour to hour, you’re making adjustments. Sometimes, things go wrong in a lesson, and you can correct it on the fly.”
Julien said he doesn’t know what he’ll do with the prize money yet, though he said he would like to reward his peers in some way.
“Individual success is usually the result of team success,” he said.
UCS Superintendent Christine Johns said Julien is the second UCS teacher in five years to receive a Milken Family Foundation award. She had nothing but words of praise for him.
“What I have personally witnessed is he connects to his students,” she said. “He is also a leader among his colleagues.”
The Milken Educator Award was created under the guidance of Knowledge Universe co-founder Lowell Milken in 1985, and it has since been given to almost 2,600 people. The foundation calls the awards the “Oscars of Teaching.”
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