MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It’s award season for celebrities, but on Wednesday one local educator received a special award of his own.
Nathan Kirsch, a math teacher and cross country coach at Whitehaven High School, received the prestigious Milken Educator Award.
Students and teachers filled the school’s gymnasium for what they thought was just a visit from Tennessee Commissioner of Education Dr. Penny Schwinn.
Turns out, Schwinn and Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray had bigger plans.
Senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards Dr. Jane Foley was at the school with a special announcement for Kirsch.
Foley compares the Milken Educator Awards to the “Oscars of Teaching,” which recognizes teachers who go above and beyond.
“Students have had exponential increases in their achievements, passing their AP calculus test and improving their scores in geometry -- so he’s teaching the hard math courses and they’re doing really well because of him,” Foley said.
About 40 teachers from across the nation receive the award, but Kirsch was the only one from Tennessee.
“There's so many teachers in Tennessee, so many great teachers -- it's hard to put it into words,” he said.
Foley said they chose Kirsch because of his ability to help and inspire students.
“If you were here in the gym today you saw the thunderous reaction of the kids where the ground literally shook,” she said. “Because they think so much of him and look up to his example.”
The surprise went even further.
Kirsch also received a check for $25,000 to use for whatever he wants.