WAYNE – Wayne State College alumni Jon Pickinpaugh, D.J. Smith and Michelle Helt each earned a separate award.
According to a release from Wayne State College, Pickinpaugh was surprised with the $25,000 Milken Educator Award in front of students, administrators and fellow teachers; Smith received the Golden Apple Award in South Sioux City and Helt earned the Nebraska 2018 of the Year.
Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley named Pickinpaugh as the winner. He will now be included in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education. He will have an opportunity to attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 20-23.
Educators cannot apply for Milken Educator Award and do not even know they are under consideration. A confidential selection process includes blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. The 40th Nebraskan to garner the award, Pickinpaugh will complete studies to become a school administrator with a master of science in education Pre K-12th grade administration at Wayne State College in May.
Smith earned his bachelor’s degree in music education in 2013 at Wayne State and is working on his graduate degree at the college.
Helt is a third-grade teacher at Cardinal Elementary School in South Sioux City, and a competitor for National Teacher of the Year. Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt presented the award in October.
Helt began teaching in 2002 as a resource and Title I reading teacher at Cardinal Elementary and St. Michael’s Catholic School. She served as an ESL and resource teacher for a year at Cardinal Elementary before becoming a third-grade teacher where she has taught since 2004. Helt was a founding member of the South Sioux City District Curriculum Council. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University and a master’s degree from Wayne State College.
A panel of Nebraska educators selected Helt as the 2018 Nebraska Teacher of the Year. The Teacher of the Year program recognizes the contributions of classroom teachers who are exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled and who have the ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.