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Bismarck middle school teacher wins prestigious 'Milken award'

Katie David, Prairie Public

When Bismarck teacher Erica Quale arrived at Wachter Middle School Thursday, she was unaware of what was to happen.

Quale teaches eight grade U S. History. And neither she nor her 8th graders knew that she would be receiving the Milken Educator Award. That award is described as an "Oscar for teaching."

At a school assembly, state school superintendent Kirsten Baesler made the announcement. And the "cafetorium" at Wachter erupted with cheers.

Quale said it was a complete surprise.

"It's just crazy," Quale told reporters. "There are so many people here that deserve this. I don't know why I was chosen."

Quale said the teachers she works with are "awesome." She said the same of her students.

The Milken Foundation said Quale makes history relevant to her students' lives, and has a unique ability to connect with, and inspire, students. Milken representatives said they do not accept nominations for the award — rather, they do their own research.

Quale will receive $25,000 in cash, and will be attending a Milken Educator Awards forum, where award winners talk about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.

Quale has been a teacher at Wachter for 13 years. And she had this advice for anyone thinking about a career in teaching.

"These kids will change your world," Quale said. "They are our next generation. And they need to be led positively. We have a huge weight on our shoulders, because these kids are our kids. We have to be there for them."

Quale started a program called "Wachter's Pink Dot," to supply personal hygiene items to students. She organizes a yearly trip to Washington, DC, and helps the students raise money for the trip.

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