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A Big Honor And A Big Surprise For Cody High School Principal

Nathan Tedjeske

Cody High School Principal Nathan Tedjeske was taken by surprise this week when he awarded the 2024 Milken Educator Award, which is considered the “Oscars of Teaching.”

The national award comes with a check for $25-thousand dollars.

Tedjeske was presented the award at an all-school assembly Wednesday.  He was described as “being nearly in shock” and “speechless” as students gave him a standing ovation, according to Cowboy State Daily.  Tedjeske was the principal at Cody Middle School before coming to the high school this year.

Tedjeske was announced as the winner in front of an all-school assembly at CHS on Wednesday morning.  He had been watching the assembly, which he admitted was planned without much of his input or knowledge.  He said he was “pretty much clueless” about the real reason for the gathering.

He might have had a hint of the importance of the assembly by who was in attendance for it.  Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder, along with representatives from Wyoming Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, State Representative Sandy Newsome and State Senator Tim French from the Wyoming Legislature, and the Park County School District No. 6 Board of Trustees.

“We have a bit of a surprise for you today,” Degenfelder said to the Cody High School students gathered in the gymnasium. “We’re here for an even more exciting reason.”

Degenfelder handed the microphone to Stephanie Bishop, a representative of The Milken Family Foundation from Santa Monica, California. Bishop, a drama teacher who won the Milken Award in 2001, energetically presented the details of the award to the students.

“In sports, athletes get gold medals and Heisman trophies,” she said. “Entertainers get American Musical Awards and Oscars. In science in medicine, there are Nobel Prizes. But consider for a moment: Isn’t it odd that the educators, the ones preparing all of the others getting the awards, haven’t been part of the celebration? We’re here to fix that.”

“Now, it is time to tell you the secret,” Bishop said. “Superintendent Degenfelder, may I have the envelope, please?”

Students provided a knee-slapping drum roll as the envelope was opened. When Bishop announced that the Milken Award recipient was “your principal, Nathan Tedjeske,” the gymnasium erupted in cheers and applause.

“It’s been such a privilege just getting to know you over the last year and a half,” Degenfelder said, “And we know he has no idea. This was a total surprise, and hopefully you fell for it. Did you have any idea?”  Tedjeske said he had no idea.

Bishop then used a handful of Cody High School students to reveal the unrestricted cash prize given to each Milken Award recipient. Each student held up a number, with Degenfelder adding a final zero to reveal a total of $25,000.

The Milken Educator Awards, created by Lowell Milken in 1987, have rewarded and inspired excellence in the world of education by honoring top educators around the country with $25,000 unrestricted awards. Not an accolade for “lifetime achievement” or the proverbial gold watch at the exit door, the Milken Educator Awards targets early-to-mid career education professionals for their already impressive achievements and, more significantly, for the promise of what they will accomplish in the future.


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