Wednesday, December 8, 2010


wn as the Oscar for Teachers. Nominations for the annual award are neither solicited nor accepted by the sponsoring Milken Family Foundation. The names of each year’s recipients are kept secret – even from the winners – until the announcements are made in each teacher’s school.
This year, only 55 teachers nationwide are being named Milken National Educators, and only one in the state of Illinois.
That outstanding instructor is Dexter Chaney, a 3rd grade teacher at Martin A. Ryerson Elementary School, 646 North Lawndale Avenue in West Garfield Park.
The announcement was made November 29 in the school auditorium to an assembly of students and his teaching colleagues. In recognition of the prestige of the award, Dr. Christopher A. Koch, Illinois State Superintendent of Education, was on hand, as were Chicago Board of Education President Mary Richardson-Lowry, and 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett.
After a dramatic build-up by Dr. Jane Foley, Senior Vice President of the Milken Family Foundation, the Ryerson auditorium erupted into a roar of approval when the name of Dexter Chaney, the quiet, mild-mannered transplanted Texan, was announced. Chaney came forward from his seat with his class and wiped tears from his eyes as he tried to compose himself to receive the award and speak to the assembly.
Chaney receives a cash award of $25,000 – about which he commented quietly, “Well, now I can buy some pencils.”
“Mr. Chaney’s wealth of knowledge on differentiated instruction and his expertise in using data to improve teaching and student learning has been invaluable to both students and his colleagues at Ryerson,” said Dr. Christopher A Koch, State Superintendent of Education. “The Milken Family Foundation’s ability to seek out and recognize teachers of Mr. Chaney’s high caliber is very much appreciated. This award is an excellent opportunity to showcase a talented teacher who is striving to make a difference in students’ lives.”
According to the Milken Foundation, Chaney uses the manners he was taught as a child in Texas to model respect and engage his colleagues, students’ families, and members of the community. He firmly believes that parental and community involvement is directly linked to successful learning.
Chaney is known for his pursuit of professional development activities and opportunities that help good teachers become better teachers, according to the Foundation. His dedication to continuously seeking methods that will best help students succeed has earned him the reputation of an outstanding mentor who has earned high levels of respect from colleagues, administrators, students, and families.
“He serves as a role model to not only the children in his classroom, but to every child in the school,” says Lorenzo Russell, his Principal. “Dexter is highly visible to every student because of his tireless efforts, his work in the community, and his participation in after-school and extracurricular activities. Our students know they can count on him.”
A teacher for six years, Chaney is known for his dedication to helping students succeed. Although school doesn’t officially begin until 9:00 AM, Chaney is always at Ryerson by 7:30 AM to let children in any grade come to his classroom. Chaney provides tutoring if needed but, more often, he provides an ear and a safe environment for the students of Ryerson.
Dexter Chaney superbly represents the rebirth of Martin A. Ryerson School under the creative leadership of Principal Lorenzo Russell. In his three years at the helm, Russell has actively recruited male teachers, introduced single-gender classes to promote student focus on academics, tied athletics directly to scholastic performance, raised test scores from 40% to over 76% of students performing at state norms, and brought Ryerson from one of Chicago’s worst schools for attendance to one of its best.

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