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Teacher shocked to receive $25,000 award


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JACKSON, Wyoming — A Wyoming teacher was shocked to receive a $25,000 award last week for his exceptional educational talent.

“It’s like winning the lottery except I never entered the lottery,” recipient Chris Bessonette told

The second-grade dual-language immersion teacher was selected by the Milken Educator Foundation to receive the award. Administrators at Milken and Munger Mountain Elementary, where Bessonette works, orchestrated the surprise.

Bessonette said teachers and students were told to attend an assembly where a special guest would be visiting.

“There was so much speculation around who that special guest might be and it turned out it was a representative from the Milken Family Foundation and they were to award me $25,000,” Bessonette says.

Students rallied around Bessonette after he was awarded the prize in the form of a giant check. The monetary award is described as “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher magazine.

“It’s absolutely incredible to have someone give you a ginormous check… that says your name on in it with $25,000. It’s super exciting and amazing,” Bessonette says.

Courtesy photo

Bessonette was the only teacher in Wyoming chosen for the award. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by panels appointed by state departments of education. The most exceptional educators are recommended for the award with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

“I would guess that I was nominated because I’m a pretty engaged teacher,” Bessonette says. “I don’t really know exactly how they found me. I’ve been trying to figure that out myself.”

Bessonette has been teaching in the dual immersion program in Teton County for seven years. This is his first year at Munger Mountain Elementary as the school opened last year.

“I love working with kids and it’s been super fun to show up to work,” Bessonette says. “I feel like this award is exciting because I get to share some of the cool parts of being an educator with other people, in particular, I’m really excited to share and promote dual language learning. I think it’s amazing for kids.”

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo