Anchorage English teacher receives $25K national education award in surprise ceremony

A woman speaking into a microphone
West High School English teacher Temperance Tinker-Kays speaks to students and staff after receiving the Alaska Milken Educator Award on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation)

A high school English teacher in Anchorage received a prestigious Milken Educator Award in a surprise ceremony Wednesday morning.

Temperance Tinker-Kays teaches English at West Anchorage High School.

“I’m really glad I didn’t take a personal day today,” she joked while accepting the award.

The Milken Educator Award recognizes exceptional early- to mid-career teachers and includes a $25,000 prize. Tinker-Kays said the award comes during a challenging year.

“It’s sometimes really hard to show up — my year this year has been really hard,” she said. “To be here today and to get recognition and support from these amazing people behind me and this entire West High community, it means so much. And I just want to say thank you.”

Tinker-Kays received her Master of Arts in Teaching in 2007 from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She’s taught English for 13 years.

“Teaching continues to be the best career that I’ve ever had because it is fulfilling to see young people reach their potential,” she wrote on her classes’ online page.

Her classroom activities include “Vocab Slam” events, where students use vocabulary words they’re learning to create slam poetry. She’s mentored new teachers, National Merit Scholarship semifinalists and international baccalaureate students completing research projects. She also advised a group of juniors and seniors as they created and delivered lessons on consent and dating violence.

Tinker-Kays is one of 60 teachers to receive the award this school year, and the only recipient in Alaska.

Five people hold up a large check
West Anchorage High School Principal Sven Gustafson, Alaska Department of Education Commissioner Michael Johnson, award recipient Temperance Tinker-Kays, Milken Educator Awards senior program director Greg Gallagher and Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop at the West High School gym on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation)
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