Christal Bookhamer was a step beyond stunned Thursday when she received the Milken Educator Award — and its $25,000 payday.
“I just want someone to pinch me and wake me up,” said Bookhamer, a teacher at R.C. Loflin Middle School in Joshua.
Moments after being surprised during a school assembly Thursday and presented with the check from the Milken Foundation, the 8-year veteran educator got a standing ovation from the school’s students and staff and a cadre of dignitaries that included Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams and the foundation’s chairman, Lowell Milken.
Bookhamer credited the people she works with for accomplishments that distinguished her in the eyes of a foundation that searches the nation each year for people who have the power to lead young minds to knowledge.
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Milken said the award that Teacher Magazine calls the “Oscars of Teaching” is earned by people who possess qualities that not only help students grasp concepts like the sciences Bookhamer teaches, but can also inspire them to become teachers themselves.
“It’s being presented to you because you have the potential to do even greater things in the future,” Milken told Bookhamer.
The Milken Foundation noted that she dressed in military fatigues and sang in cadence to lead a two-week science boot camp for her eighth-graders. In 2012, Bookhamer’s students scored a 99 percent passing rate on the STARR Science Test, a news release said.
What Bookhamer does with the $25,000 award is up to her. She hadn’t had time to decide for sure, but she had a pretty good idea.
“I’ll probably pay off some of my student loans,” Bookhamer said. “I’m working on my master’s. This will come in very handy.”
Bookhamer’s immediate plans will keep her in Joshua.
“I just hope that I can continue to touch students’ lives,” Bookhamer said. “This is a job where you can make a difference.”