Oklahoma Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Check, Award

11-1-05 - Oklahoma first lady Kim Henry and state school Superintendent Sandy Garrett tricked school teacher Jill Rumbaugh before giving her a Halloween treat.

Rumbaugh was surprised Monday with the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize.

Rumbaugh thought she was attending a celebration of the school's Character First program at the Cheyenne Middle School gymnasium on Monday. Instead, Garrett revealed that Rumbaugh was on one of Oklahoma's two Milken winners. The second winner will be named later.

Surrounded by her students, Rumbaugh gasped and placed a hand over her chest when Garrett named her as the award recipient. Students squealed and stomped their feet in excitement.

"I truly feel so many others are much more deserving than I am," the math teacher said. "I never in a million years thought it'd be me."

Rumbaugh, now in her 15th year of teaching, will attend the foundation's annual conference later this school year in Washington.

She said she plans to use the money to pay off some debt.

Garrett said she believes teachers and principals have the most important jobs in the world.

"A good teacher makes a difference," she said.

Cheyenne Principal Debbie Bendick said Rumbaugh is open to collaboration with other teachers and has on occasion dressed in costume to demonstrate math concepts.

Henry, a former teacher, told the students she wished someone had given her a $25,000 check when she was in the classroom. She said no matter what happens in the students' lives, they can guarantee a teacher had something to do with it.

The Milken Family Foundation will give out $2.5 million in awards to teachers across the nation this year. The first awards were presented in 1987.

Oklahoma joined the awards program in 2000, and Rumbaugh is the 18th Oklahoma educator to be honored.