John Stanford school principal wins prestigious national award
Kelly Aramaki, principal of John Stanford International School in Wallingford, on Thursday was awarded a $25,000 check for winning the Milken Educator Award. Only 55 teachers nationwide will receive the honor this year.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Photographers fixated on the speaker. High-profile figures dotted the audience. Suspense had been mounting toward this moment for the entire ceremony.
"May I have the envelope, please?" she asked.
And the winner is ... Kelly Aramaki.
Seated in the audience, Aramaki buried his face in his hands, stood up slowly and waved to the hundreds of roaring admirers who were suddenly on their feet.
"Thank you so much!" Aramaki said when he finally reached the microphone.
Much like a standard Oscar-night acceptance speech, he thanked his colleagues, his superiors and all those who helped him get where he is today. But he ended on a distinctly different note: "I know that kindergarten and first grade really want to get out to recess soon, so we'll finish up."
Aramaki, principal of John Stanford International School in Wallingford, is one of 55 educators nationwide who will receive a no-strings-attached $25,000 check for winning this fall's Milken Educator Award. The honor is given to young and exceptionally promising educators who so far have not received a major award in their career.
The Milken Family Foundation planned Thursday's event as a surprise by having the state superintendent's office bill it as a general celebration of the accomplishments of the school, one of six international schools in the Seattle school district. Only the superintendent's office, a couple of Seattle Public Schools employees and members of the media knew about the award. Aramaki didn't even know he was being considered for it.
"I was totally in shock," said Aramaki, the only Washington educator to be honored by the foundation this year. "I was literally just trying to stay standing."
Suspenseful award ceremonies attended by politicians may seem an unusually lavish way to honor educators. And that's just how the Milken Family Foundation wants it.
"We think educators should be just as rich and famous as movie stars," said Jane Foley, the foundation's senior vice president, who has put on about 150 of these events.
Aramaki and the other recipients will gather in Santa Monica, Calif., this May for the Milken Educator Forum, to discuss education and celebrate the new winners. A place so close to Hollywood is an appropriate setting to honor people the foundation believes should be viewed as celebrities, Foley said.
Aramaki, a Bellevue native who graduated from the University of Washington and Columbia University's Teachers College, took the helm at the K-5 school four years ago.
Already a well-performing school, John Stanford became one of the state's best under Aramaki's watch and was named a "school of distinction" in 2009 and 2010 by the state's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The label goes to schools that score in the top 5 percent on standardized math and reading tests.
John Stanford's 440 students primarily come from the surrounding neighborhood. About 30 to 40, however, are students from across Seattle who were born in another country. Students take either Japanese or Spanish starting in kindergarten.
Sean Collins Walsh: 206-464-3195 or email@example.com
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