NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Students, teachers and staff packed the gym at Palmetto Scholars Academy on Tuesday morning, but they didn’t know why there was an assembly.
On the floor of the gym was a podium and several distinguished guests including North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and representatives from the Milken Family Foundation.
The foundation recognizes excellence in teaching around the country. On Tuesday, social studies teacher, Leslie Sullivan, was surprised with the $25,000 Milken Educator Award that she can use however she wishes. She is the only South Carolina recipient of the award for the 2019-20 school year and among up to 40 educators nationwide to receive the recognition this season. The award is known as the “Oscars of Teaching."
“Leslie Sullivan takes her students on historical journeys where they dig deeply into rich text, make connections between past and present, think and question, and discover more about themselves and their place in the world,” said CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, Dr. Candice McQueen. “We are proud to welcome her into the national Milken Educator Network and proud of her service to students in South Carolina’s public schools. We know she will write her own rich history of accomplishments for years to come.”
Once Sullivan got over the shock of winning the award, she said she hopes to use part of it to pay off student loans.
“I’m very, very overwhelmed and very excited and very proud of my school,” she added. “And so grateful for the Milken Foundation but also to be able to work for such an amazing place where I have students that make me want to come to work and be my best because I think they’re amazing.”
After the award was announced, the students erupted into applause and began to chant Sullivan’s name. Several students came up to her afterwards to give her a hug and say congratulations.
“Being named a Milken Educator Award winner is one of the highest honors an educator can receive,” Superintendent Spearman said. “Leslie’s passion for teaching and her ability to engage students and deepen their understanding of history uniquely qualify her for this prestigious honor."
Sullivan currently teaches honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes, including U.S. history, government and economics. In her class students recreate Revolutionary War battlefields out of dough, participate in Socratic seminars, and engage in sophisticated discussions of historical and current events, exploring political and cultural dynamics.