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Somerset ISD Teacher Wins Prestigious Milken Educator Award

Louisa Jonas
Texas Public Radio
Amber Simpson in red alongside former Milken Educator Award winners from Texas

They call it the “Oscar of Teaching” and for the first time it’s going to a teacher at Somerset Independent School District in Bexar County. The prestigious Milken Educator Award also comes with a $25,000 cash prize.




Amber Simpson shed tears of joy when she got the news. The teacher at Barrera Veterans Elementary School said when they called her name, she thought she had heard them wrong.


“It never even occurred to me that this is what we were here for, was for the Milken Award,” Simpson says. “And then when they started mentioning it, I kept looking, who could it be, because we have so many fantastic teachers.”


Simpson is a master teacher who helps instruct other teachers how to instruct, mostly in the areas of math and science.


Gary Stark, President and CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, says, “To be selected, we do look at a teacher’s accomplishment in the classroom, their focus not only on the individual child, but on also on the performance of the children and in her classroom and that school in general.” Stark continues, “She’s been steadfast in doing the great work of an educator in her local community.”


Thirty-five Milken Educator Awards are being given out nationally this year. Simpson is the only teacher to receive the award in Texas.

Louisa Jonas is an independent public radio producer, environmental writer, and radio production teacher based in Baltimore. She is thrilled to have been a PRX STEM Story Project recipient for which she produced a piece about periodical cicadas. Her work includes documentaries about spawning horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebirds aired on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Louisa previously worked as the podcast producer at WYPR 88.1FM in Baltimore. There she created and produced two documentary podcast series: Natural Maryland and Ascending: Baltimore School for the Arts. The Nature Conservancy selected her documentaries for their podcast Nature Stories. She has also produced for the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Distillations Podcast. Louisa is editor of the book Backyard Carolina: Two Decades of Public Radio Commentary. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her training also includes journalism fellowships from the Science Literacy Project and the Knight Digital Media Center, both in Berkeley, CA. Most recently she received a journalism fellowship through Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where she traveled to Toolik Field Station in Arctic Alaska to study climate change. In addition to her work as an independent producer, she teaches radio production classes at Howard Community College to a great group of budding journalists. She has worked as an environmental educator and canoe instructor but has yet to convince a great blue heron to squawk for her microphone…she remains undeterred.