Pierre math teacher Nichole Bowman awarded national “Milken Educator Award”

Bowman, a teacher for over a decade and a mother of three, was announced as the winner of the prestigious award during a surprise “pep rally.”
Nichole Bowman (center), a teacher at TF Riggs High School in Pierre, South Dakota, is awarded...
Nichole Bowman (center), a teacher at TF Riggs High School in Pierre, South Dakota, is awarded the "Milken Educator Award," at a ceremony with Governor Kristi Noem and Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 7:33 AM MDT
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PIERRE, SD - A high school math teacher from Pierre won the prestigious “Milken Educator Award” Tuesday.

Nichole Bowman has been a teacher for over a decade, but for only one year at TF Riggs High School. Bowman invests significant time and energy in differentiation, using personalized and small-group instruction to allow students of all abilities to move through the curriculum at their own pace, according to a press release. She knows that no two students are alike, and that being a teacher requires never getting too high or too low.

“I never knew the love I could have for a stranger’s child, until I got into teaching,” Bowman said.

At a surprise ceremony, Bowman was recognized for her dedication to teachers and students at TF Riggs with the Milken Award in front of appreciative colleagues, students, and education officials. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson joined Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher to present Bowman with the prestigious recognition, which includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize, and an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to workshop with other award recipients.

“An educator here is receiving a national award for teaching, what does that mean? What do they get?” Gallagher said. “The first thing you get is a big surprise, because you can’t apply, and we do not accept nominations. You do not find us, we find you. We search all over the country to find the best of the best.”

Bowman will join a national network of more than 2,800 Milken Educators and K-12 education leaders across the U.S.

“Nichole Bowman is a changemaker in education,” Gallagher continued. “She not only takes a purposeful interest in meeting students where they are but also extends her impact beyond the walls of Riggs High School. By mentoring teachers, propagating best practices, and developing strategies for the needs of an evolving student population, everyone benefits.”

Bowman is among more than 60 educators nationwide who will receive the Award during the 2021-22 school year. Bowman is the second recipient from T.F. Riggs High School since the Milken Educator Awards launched in 1987.

“Nichole works hard to meet each student exactly where they are so they can learn. She’s been very successful as a math teacher,” said Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson. “She also regularly seeks out leadership opportunities, including helping to lead implementation of our state’s math standards. She helps grow the profession by mentoring new teachers, and she is always there for students —whether serving as an advisor or attending students’ activities to cheer them on.”

Despite the national accolades, Bowman says her most important achievement is continuing to watch her students thrive.

“We have so many great educators in this district, in this school,” Bowman said. “It makes me feel proud, and flattered... The love that you feel, and the love you give out, there is just no other profession that gives that to you like teaching.”

Oprah, a longtime education advocate, shared her congratulations to this year’s recipients, thanking “the most incredible educators around the country” and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the “tireless work” they do.

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