Cheyenne Principal Receives Prestigious National Award

Dec 13, 2019

Educators put in a lot of time with little recognition, but sometimes a light is shown on their work. Recently, at Johnson Junior High School in Cheyenne, a well-thought-of principal was awarded a major prize in the school's first all-school assembly.

Brian Cox, the school's principal, organized the whole thing. He was expecting Jillian Balow, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction, to recognize the school's initiatives to ensure that all students had access to breakfast - and at first, she did.

But little did Cox know that the multiple VIPs were there to honor him with the Milken Education Award.

When they called his name as the next Milken Educator, Cox was obviously surprised. The Milken Education Award recognizes outstanding educators across the country. In addition to being recognized, Cox will have the opportunity to take part in several professional development programs. He also receives a $25,000 award that can be used for anything he wants.

"One of the things I probably will do is we started a scholarship fund, my wife and I did, here for students of Johnson Junior High School, and we'll probably put a little bit of that money into that scholarship fund to continue helping our kids," Cox said.

He said he spends a lot of time focused on his students. All that starts very early in the day.

"When you have the opportunity to get up a half hour early and then work that much harder for your kids, do it. I get up every morning at 2:30," Cox said. "And that's something that I do just specifically to make sure I can be here for kids when kids are here."

The award was handed out by Greg Gallagher, the Senior Program Director of the Milken Family Foundation - a program focused on recognizing outstanding early to mid-career educators across the country. And he said that preparation shows Cox's dedication to his students.

"In Mr. Cox's case, he's a great leader, obviously, as a principal, but also, he's empowering these students to become leaders as well. He doesn't just lead by his words he leads by his actions," Gallagher said. "He's also a hometown hero. He helps out in the community. And he's teaching the students about the importance of civics, because they're also helping out in the community."

The Milken Educator Award has been called the "Oscars of Teaching." Recipients are selected nationally using a confidential selection process - they don't apply, and they're not nominated; every award is given as a surprise.

"I was preparing this one for quite a while because since we have Mr. Cox's, the principal, he was actually planning his own surprise," Gallagher said. "So, when I showed up, you know, and I'm talking with him, I had to kind of keep who I was a secret, which is not easy for me."

Of the up to 40 educators being honored this year, Cox is the only winner from Wyoming.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Ivy Engel, at iengel@uwyo.edu.