Assistant principal in Idaho Falls honored with prestigious national award and given $25,000 - East Idaho News
'Oscars of Teaching'

Assistant principal in Idaho Falls honored with prestigious national award and given $25,000

  Published at  | Updated at
Photo: Kelly Sheridan, assistant principal and dean of students at Compass Academy, was honored Wednesday with the Milken Educator Award. She was surprised after her name was announced. Video: Kelly Sheridan talks about the award. | Courtesy picture: Milken Family Foundation, Video: Andrea Olson,

IDAHO FALLS — An assistant principal and dean of students at Compass Academy was surprised and honored after she received a prestigious national award.

On Wednesday, Kelly Sheridan thought she was going to be attending a school assembly that she helped plan and welcome Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield.

“I thought that she was just visiting schools in Idaho that are doing awesome things,” Sheridan said.

Instead, the assembly was about her. Sheridan’s name was called in front of students as a recipient of the Milken Educator Award.

“Today, we celebrate the extraordinary commitment of Kelly Sheridan to Compass Academy’s students, colleagues, and the community at large,” said Stephanie Bishop, vice president of the Milken Educator Awards.

The award was presented by the Milken Family Foundation, which is headquartered in Santa Monica, California. It is a national honor given to a select group of K-12 educators nationwide for excellence in education.

Sheridan said she was taking video, expecting someone else to receive the award, then her name was announced.

“The moment I heard my name, I think my mouth dropped open in awe, and it’s just kind of a blur. I felt a lot of feelings like shock and joy,” Sheridan said. “Honestly, I was thinking about people who have been my mentors over the years too that have cheered me on.”

According to a news release from the Milken Family Foundation, Sheridan is the first-ever recipient in the Idaho Falls School District to receive the award.

Compass Academy
Kelly Sheridan holding her award. | Andrea Olson,

Sheridan started out as an art teacher at Compass Academy, then later became her current role. She’s been at the school for eight years.

“My job here is really fun because it’s a 50/50 balance of supporting students and supporting teachers,” she said.

Sheridan said she chose to be in education because she enjoys building other people up.

“I think that’s a lot of what I do in my current role — helping students know that they can do hard things, and you don’t have to wait for motivation to get started. You just have to get started,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards forum in Los Angeles in June. It will be a chance for her to network and learn how to broaden her impact on education.

She was given a big check for $25,000, which she can use however she would like.

Compass Academy
The big check for $25,000. | Andrea Olson,

“What would I do with $25,000? I am getting married this summer so that’s great timing, and I am sure that it will go towards that and maybe our honeymoon. Right now, we don’t have a honeymoon planned,” she said.

She expressed her thanks for the award and to everyone involved.

Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is different because educators cannot apply for the award and do not know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and reviewed by panels and appointed by state education departments.

Known as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the awards will honor up to 75 recipients across the country in 2023 to 2024 as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator.

“Kelly Sheridan is a perfect example of the incredible influence that accomplished leadership can have on students, teachers and the community,” Critchfield said in a release.

Compass Academy
Students during the assembly hold up numbers to show how much the cash reward is. | Andrea Olson,