Kentucky teacher receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Social studies teacher brings history to life for eighth graders at Ballyshannon Middle School

UNION, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) — At Ballyshannon Middle School in Union, Kentucky, Kevin Dailey’s eighth graders are hooked on history. Along with emphasizing skills like writing and speaking, Dailey’s lessons immerse students in important parts of U.S. history using project-based approaches to units on public policy, government and how the nation came to be. Today, Dailey’s students witnessed a national event with personal impact as Dailey received a Milken Educator Award, surrounded by colleagues, education officials and media.

At a surprise school assembly, Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman and Kentucky Commissioner of Education Dr. Jason E. Glass joined Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop to present Dailey with the prestigious recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize Dailey can use however he wishes. In addition to today’s fanfare, the Award carries lifelong benefits: Dailey will join the national Milken Educator Network of more than 2,800 outstanding educators and leaders dedicated to strengthening K-12 education.

“Kevin Dailey uses hands-on, project-based learning as an excellent way to develop his students into independent thinkers and productive citizens of society and the world at large,” Bishop said. “His creativity, care and compassion create a safe, nurturing environment where every student is heard and valued. I welcome Kevin into our Milken Educator Award family and look forward to the contributions he will bring to our national network.”

Dailey is among more than 60 educators nationwide who will receive the Award during the 2021-22 school year. He is the first Boone County Schools recipient since 1997.

“I am so happy to be in Boone County today with the Milken Foundation to celebrate Kevin Dailey, one of Kentucky’s outstanding educators,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “Mr. Dailey works tirelessly in his pursuit of student success and intense desire to give back to his community. Not only does he challenge and engage his students through some of the most creative projects and innovative practices, he instills upon them the importance of being a good citizen. When eighth graders leave his classroom, they take with them a strong foundation that sets them up for positive experiences in high school.”

Two years ago, with the aid of students in Dailey’s construction club, an outdoor library was built for the school and the community, Glass said.

“This is a shared space where students and adults in the Ballyshannon community can drop off a book and take a book,” Glass said. “I am told that Mr. Dailey takes great pride in this library and parents, teachers, students and community members love what the library provides as a book placed in the library will generally be gone within a week.”

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The Awards are not designated for lifetime achievement. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award.

More About Kevin Dailey

Past to Present: Kevin Dailey brings U.S. history alive for his eighth graders. During a unit on the origin of goods and services during colonial times, the class invited faculty and staff to join them in a hot chocolate tasting, with different versions incorporating spices, salt and other savory flavors brought to America by colonists from different cultures and growing regions. They study colonial times by using clues to write journals that detail explorers’ stories and looking at historical documents to create diagrams showing colonial relationships. Dailey emphasizes writing, speaking, listening and reading skills in his classroom, recognizing their ongoing importance to his charges’ academic, personal and professional success. He collaborates with a science colleague for Project Citizen, a project-based learning program that teaches students about public policy and supports their efforts to press community and government leaders to effect change. With this strong foundation, it’s no wonder the majority of his students take AP Human Geography as ninth graders, and more pupils enroll in AP European History in high school from Ballyshannon than from any other feeder middle school.

 Inclusive Curriculum: Dailey has a reputation as the district’s strongest advocate for fact-based instruction and equity in education, leading the effort to reimagine a multicultural social studies curriculum that addresses bias and includes narratives that support all students. He was one of the first Ballyshannon teachers to promote standards-based learning and has developed multiple rubrics to measure students’ mastery.

Peer Leadership: Dailey is active in professional learning communities for his grade, building and district; participates in the district Aspiring Administrators Program; was elected by his peers to Ballyshannon’s site-based council; and has presented professional development on the flipped classroom at the Kentucky Council for Teachers of Social Studies conference. He hosts teacher interns and is a leader on the school’s Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports team, creating a student-run “spirit store” that rewards positive student behaviors.

Lifelong Learning: Dailey has sought out many opportunities to enrich his instruction. He taught in China through the University of Kentucky’s Confucius Institute and has attended the Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions Teacher Training Institute and University of Louisville’s McConnell Center for Teaching Scholars. Dailey is certified to teach “We The People,” a program that promotes civic competence and responsibility for middle schoolers.

Education: Dailey earned a bachelor’s in 2011 and a master’s in 2012, both in social studies secondary education, from the University of Kentucky.

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