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A Buffalo elementary school teacher wins a national teaching award

Jessica Kavitz (center) holds a check for $25,000 as part of her selection for the Milken Educator Award on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Meadowlark Elementary School in Buffalo.
Paul Bliese
Milken Educator Awards
Jessica Kavitz (center) holds a check for $25,000 as part of her selection for the Milken Educator Award on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Meadowlark Elementary School in Buffalo.

A Buffalo kindergarten teacher at Meadowlark Elementary School in Buffalo was selected for a National Milken Educator Award for Excellence and a $25,000 cash prize to be used at the awardees discretion. Jessica Kavitz was presented with the award at a school assembly on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

This is the first time a teacher in Johnson County School District #1 has received the award.

“I just am so humbled by this and I just keep looking at these three little faces in the front that aren’t mine anymore but will always be my kiddos even though they’re first graders now and I pick out all these friends and all the kids that weren’t even in my class that changed my life everyday and all the adults as well that help me do this job and are why I’m here each and every day,” Kavitz said at the assembly.

Kavitz’s mother was also a teacher in Gillette for approximately three decades. Kavitz said the challenges and rewards of teaching are reasons why she loves being an educator.

“And that’s my ultimate job is just to help them love learning so that they want to be here,” she said. “I always say, “They’re going to learn it when they’re ready to learn it, but if they love being here and they’re having fun and they are loved and cared for and you’re making the experience that they’re having each day that they walk into your classroom a positive one, they’re going to learn the content when they’re ready for it.”

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder and Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher were in Gillette at the assembly.

"Jessica Kavitz is the kind of teacher you hope your children have for their first year of school – compassionate, thoughtful and engaging. Jessica's classroom is a nonstop learning hub that prepares students well for their academic journeys," said Gallagher in a press release. "Outstanding educators have the potential to positively influence generations of students, and it is especially meaningful when parents inspire their children to pursue the adventure of teaching. We are thrilled to honor Jessica as a second-generation educator making an impact on the lives of so many young students in the Buffalo community."

Kavitz will now join more than 2,900 K-12 educators across the country who have received Milken Educator Awards. Those honored with this distinction will receive an all expenses paid trip to the Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in April 2023.

More than $140 million have been dedicated to the Milken Awards initiative, including more than $73 million in individual awards since their inception 35 years ago.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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