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January 04, 2018 05:12 PM

Harrisburg Teacher Wins Milken Educator Award

A Harrisburg teacher is going home Thursday night with an extra $25,000 in her pocket. Carla Diede is this year's South Dakota recipient of the Milken Educator Award. The math teacher at Harrisburg South Middle School was blindsided at an assembly Thursday. 

Not one to seek out recognition, Carla Diede says she was stunned when she heard her name called by South Dakota's Education Secretary Don Kirkegaard.  

"Not going to lie. I actually was hoping it wasn't me. I prefer not to be in the spotlight," Diede said.

The mother of two who grew up in Huron and has been a teacher at Harrisburg for five years is giving thanks to her students and fellow colleagues.  

"Just very overwhelmed. Just so grateful. Too much to almost take in I think," Diede said. 

The Milken Educator Award isn't something you can apply for. Greg Gallagher with the Milken Family Foundation says candidates are found by blue ribbon panels appointed by the state's Department of Education. 

"Carla started a personalized learning program. She's a leader in her school and her district. This isn't a lifetime achievement award. We also want Carla to go on and be in education for 20 years and be a leader in education," Gallagher said. 

For those thinking about teaching or others already in the classroom, Diede, a South Dakota State grad with a Master's from Southwest Minnesota State, has these words of advice. 

"It's not the easiest thing in the world to do. That's okay because the rewards you reap are so much greater. I get to come to school each day and start a fresh new day and see the smiling kids faces and ignite passions in them. Whether that passion is for math, great. If that passion is for saving the planet, great. And so I just get to help them live out their dreams and what better thing to do I guess," Diede said. 

Diede says she has no idea what she'll do with the unrestricted check for $25,000. Gallagher says teachers have used the money in a variety of ways including paying off student loans or putting down money on their homes.  

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