Watertown, S.D., (December 2, 2022) — One first grade teacher received the surprise of a lifetime today when she was awarded the first-ever Milken Educator Award for the Watertown School District at a schoolwide assembly of cheering students, colleagues, local and state dignitaries, and the media. Abby Turbak of McKinley Elementary School received the recognition by the Milken Family Foundation, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize that Turbak can use however she chooses.

Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher and South Dakota Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson presented the Award. Turbak joins the Milken Educator Network of more than 2,900 outstanding educators and leaders from across the country dedicated to strengthening K-12 education.

“I am thrilled to welcome Abby Turbak to this vast and talented group of Milken Educators that spans the country,” said Gallagher. “Today we honor Abby and celebrate her unwavering dedication to excellence in education, which is evident through her innovative teaching methods, devotion to her students’ needs and demonstrated leadership in her school and district.”

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year’s winners’ list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced.

Over the past 35 years, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.


“South Dakota’s teachers make a tremendous impact on the lives of our young people. Abby Turbak has proven that when we focus on student growth and challenge them to succeed, they will rise to the occasion,” said Secretary Sanderson. “Students thanked Abby today with cheers and excitement – and that illustrates the power strong teaching has on student learning, motivation and confidence. Congratulations to Abby, and thank you to our teachers throughout the state.”