Kanoheda Elementary Teacher Wins Prestigious Milken Award

Kanoheda Elementary Teacher Wins Prestigious Milken Award

Susan Ralstin, a 4th grade teacher and grade-level chair at Kanoheda Elementary, got the surprise of her life last week when she was awarded the prestigious Milken Family Foundation 2004 National Educator Award. State Superintendent Kathy Cox and other guests showed up at Kanoheda to announce that Ms. Ralstin was one of two Georgians and 100 educators nationwide chosen to receive the Milken award, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize.
Teachers and administrators are chosen for the award, based on their outstanding instructional abilities, contributions to the teaching profession, long-range potential for professional leadership, and the ability to motivate students, colleagues, and the community.

A blue-ribbon panel, appointed by the Georgia Department of Education, recommended Ms. Ralstin for the award. The hush-hush process— winners don’t know they’ve been nominated— resulted in Ms. Ralstin’s big surprise. She will take an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the Milken National Education Conference in Washington D.C., in April 2005.

In her first career, Ms. Ralstin served six years in the U.S. Navy. She earned her Navy Instructor endorsement, which led to training others in Operational Readiness Exercises, submarine detection, and localization and tracking techniques. Post-service, Ms. Ralstin pursued a teaching degree, buoyed by her experience tutoring college math students. She says, “I realized how much I loved being able to help struggling students.”

Her varied background has been a powerful tool in the classroom. “I think there are several important aspects I bring to teaching from my military experiences,” Ms. Ralstin says. “Discipline, of course, and respect for each other and those around you. I love bringing my experiences into the students’ lives. Incorporating my knowledge of Anti-Submarine Warfare and war tactics into mapping skills, social studies, and mathematics really engages the students and creates a love to learn more.”

During her seven years teaching, four with GCPS, Ms. Ralstin has had great success in closing the achievement gap, using achievement data to develop instructional plans and write curriculum. “The biggest lesson any teacher can learn is that all children have the ability to succeed academically. By setting high expectations for all students, you let them know that you believe in them. Don’t let diversity get in the way of your ability to teach students or get in the way of any child’s ability to learn.”