IRMO, SC - Nursery Road Elementary School K-5 Spanish teacher Vanessa Torres was surprised with the prestigious Milken Educator Award and a check of $25,000 in front of a packed school assembly on December 6. Torres is South Carolina’s only recipient of the Milken Educator Award this year, and she is among up to 35 honorees who will receive the prestigious honor nationwide for 2016-17. This marks the 30th year of the Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching.”
“I am in utter shock,” said a smiling Torres. “I truly cannot believe I won this. It means so much to me and my family to be recognized with the Milken Educator Award. This award means that somebody validates the teaching profession and really puts their money where their mouth is, literally. Teachers are the world-changers and I am so privileged to be a part of that. Teaching is a hard profession and it can be discouraging at times, but when you feel validated by someone for what you do, it gives you the encouragement to keep going on and there is a reason why I’m here and making a difference.”
Torres is in her fifth year of teaching at Nursery Road. She immerses students in learning the Spanish language with storytelling, skits, games, songs, salsa dancing, and peso point prize raffles—all conducted entirely in Spanish.
When Torres and her students meet in the halls, they greet each other and converse in Spanish. Nursery Road Elementary principal Love Ligons was all smiles when asked about Torres saying, “Mrs. Torres is one of the most passionate teachers I have ever met. This is such a humbling day and I am so happy for her to be honored with this award. She pours her heart and soul into what she does each and every day.”
Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman presented the award to Torres. Lexington-Richland School District Five Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner and members of the District Five School Board were on hand to join in the celebration and congratulate Torres.
“Vanessa Torres ignites a passion for learning in students at Nursery Road Elementary,” said Foley. “By infusing the rich language of Spanish into students’ education—and making connections across the curriculum—Vanessa is enhancing students’ experiences and instilling life lessons of cultural respect and understanding that they will remember throughout their lives. I salute her and am excited to track her exciting career in the profession.”
“I am so proud of Vanessa Torres and the commitment to excellence she exhibits every day to her students at Nursery Road Elementary,” said Spearman. “Mrs. Torres serves not only her students, but her fellow teachers and District Five through her leadership and passion for education. I want to thank the Milken Family Foundation for the partnership we share in recognizing educators like Vanessa in our state and around the country and look forward to future collaborative efforts to showcase and uplift the teaching profession.”
“We are so proud of Mrs. Torres! She is a caring, competent and dedicated teacher who strives every day to make a positive difference for her students,” said Hefner. “I extend my congratulations as well to the entire Nursery Road faculty and staff. This honor reflects the wonderful school culture and the great teaching and learning that happens at Nursery Road every day. Thanks so much to the Milken Family Foundation for their continued support of outstanding teachers and especially for honoring Mrs. Torres today.”