Kevin Dailey, a social studies teacher at Ballyshannon Middle School (Boone County), was celebrated Feb. 23 as the latest Kentucky educator to receive the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.
Dailey was presented with the award, which includes a $25,000 unrestricted cash prize, in a surprise ceremony at his school that included students, faculty and district and community leaders. The award was presented by Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop. Kentucky Board of Education member Randy Poe also attended the ceremony.
“Mr. Dailey works tirelessly in his pursuit of student success and in his intense desire to give back to his community. Not only does he challenge and engage his students through some of the most creative projects and innovate practices, he instills upon them importance of being a good citizen,” Glass said.
Dailey said he was shocked to hear his name called in front of staff and students. He had assumed all of the special guests were there to recognize another teacher for a different award.
“I really don’t have words,” said Dailey. “Don’t cry was the first thing that went through my mind. And just shock, like is this real?”
Dailey teaches 8th-grade U.S. History at Ballyshannon Middle, where he has been on the faculty since 2019.
“I want to thank the team that I work with at Ballyshannon,” he said. “We have a really great team of educators. Despite all of the challenges the world throws at us, we overcome them. I want to thank my students at Ballyshannon and all of the students I had prior.”
Coleman said she was excited to join everyone in celebrating Dailey and all Kentucky teachers.
“Dailey is a phenomenal teacher. Every teacher you have is phenomenal,” said Coleman to the students gathered for the surprise ceremony. “I want you all to remember the faces in the front of your classroom. They wrap their arms around you every day, they help you, they high-five you, they talk to you when you are down and laugh with you when you are happy. It’s those relationships that make it so special.”
Dailey earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social studies education from the University of Kentucky (UK). He began his career as an aerospace and architectural designer before he found his calling as a social studies teacher. He taught at Gallatin County High School for six years before coming to Ballyshannon Middle.
Students leave Dailey’s classroom with a strong foundation that sets them up for positive experiences in high school. Many of his students take Advanced Placement (AP) Human Geography as 9th-graders and more pupils enroll in AP European History in high school from Ballyshannon than from any other feeder middle school.
Dailey serves on Boone County’s school-based decision making council and is active in professional learning communities for his grade, building and district. He is certified to teach “We the People,” a program that promotes civic competence and responsibility for middle schoolers.
“Dailey is an educator that every day comes to school and demonstrates excellence in education,” Bishop said.
A lifelong learner, Dailey has sought out many opportunities to enrich his instruction. He taught in China through UK’s Confucius Institute and has attended the Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions Teacher Training Institute and the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center for Teaching Scholars.
Dailey also uses his many talents to enrich the school community. His experience with woodworking led him to start and oversee Ballyshannon’s woodworking club. He and the club constructed a small community library in front of the school that allows the students to trade in and out books at any time.
The Milken Educator Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Milken Educators are selected in the early to middle stages of their career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the cash prize and public recognition, the honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.
Dailey and the other award recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum, where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, they enter the Milken Friends Forever mentoring program, in which freshman Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice.
The Milken Family Foundation has presented more than 2,800 Milken Educator Awards since 1987, including 57 to Kentucky educators. The awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators.
For more information about Dailey and links to photos and a video from today’s ceremony, visit the Milken Educator Awards website.