Alumna makes strides in education


Courtesy of Milken Family Foundation

Hannah Dietsch, Louisiana assistant superintendent, Joni Lacy, talent project director for the Louisiana Department of Education, Stephanie Whetstone, Milken Educator Award recipient, Donna Edwards, Louisiana first lady, and Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards, pose at the presentation of the oversized $25,000 check to Whetstone.

Stephanie Whetstone, a fifth grade teacher of science and mathematics at Bains Elementary School, became the first person in West Feliciana Parish to earn the $25,000 Milken Educator Award.

Whetstone graduated from the university in the spring of 2007. In college, she was involved with Phi Mu fraternity, the Excellence in Commitment to Education and Leadership program and the Student Government Association. She started teaching at Bains in August of 2014.

Teaching students from gifted to special needs, Whetstone aims to make her classroom a home away from home.

“I want it to be a welcoming, comfortable place where they will want to come and learn,” said Whetstone. “I love the fifth grade curriculum because it encompasses skills that students will use for the rest of their lives. I think if you can make material more applicable to students’ everyday lives, they become more invested in what they’re learning.”

The Milken Family Foundation, established in 1982, first gave out the Milken Educator Awards in 1987.

Instead of accepting applications or nominations, the foundation works with state departments of education to select the honorees without their knowledge.

“It’s highly selective, and we work with those departments of education,” explained Jana Rausch, director of communications for the foundation. “They appoint independent blue ribbon committees, and those committee members work with the department to confidentially seek out candidates and match their accomplishments by our criteria. We get the most extraordinary portfolios here at the Milken Family Foundation, and the Milken Family Foundation makes those final decisions.”

Of the candidates, Whetstone was chosen for exemplifying leadership in a school and classroom setting.

“Stephanie’s students will know how to meet the demands of today’s global economy and understand the value of being responsible, caring and respectful citizens,” said Dr. Jane Foley, Milken Educator Awards senior vice president and 1994 award recipient. “Stephanie’s leadership and ability to connect with colleagues, students and parents alike make her a valuable asset to Bains and the broader community.”

Whetstone discussed her plans for the award money.

“My son was born prematurely, and we are planning to pay for his hospital bills,” shared Whetstone. “I would like to take my family somewhere fun to celebrate. I spend a lot of time outside of school planning and worrying about my classes. They have sacrificed time with me, and they should be rewarded too. I am also looking into furthering my education by completing a master’s program in the future.”

Beyond the assembly announcement and the financial reward, recipients also join the National Milken Educator Network. Through this, the foundation aims to give recipients a greater voice and impact on the education field.

“The Milken Education Awards are an amazing thing for teachers, schools and the field of education,” stated Whetstone. “Their goal is to reward teachers for their hard work, get people excited about education, and to allow students to see their teacher as a rock star. I certainly think all of this has happened and more. I am very excited to see what the future holds, but for now, I will get back to teaching fractions.”