BVNW Teacher Receives Milken Educator Award 3

Bill Smithyman Surprised At Schoolwide Assembly

When Kansas English language arts teacher Bill Smithyman walked into a recent schoolwide assembly at Blue Valley Northwest High School, he had no idea he would be walking out an hour later a Milken Educator Award recipient and $25,000 richer.

In front of his principal, colleagues, students, staff and distinguished community members, Smithyman was given the surprise of his life when he received the prestigious Milken Educator Award. Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken presented Smithyman with the distinct navy blue envelope.

Milken says Smithyman, who attended Blue Valley Northwest High School himself, is considered one of the school’s most revered teachers.

“Bill sets high expectations for his students and it shows,” says Milken. “His students consistently score higher than district, state and national averages. His students also realize he’s someone who truly cares about their lives, their education and their future success. He will be an integral addition to the Milken Educator family.”

For Smithyman’s students, getting a “B” is a badge of honor. But the students love him. They line up outside his door after class where there is a constant stream of students coming through to ask for his advice, help on assignments, proofread a college entrance letter or assist them with an essay.

Former students return to thank him for all he has done for them. They will routinely comment about how well-prepared they are for the next level of education, how comfortable they feel taking high-stakes tests, and remark that he is the reason they have been able to feel competent, competitive and confident in their college English classes and beyond.

According to his colleagues, Smithyman has a “rep” – he is known to be giving with his time, he is witty, smart and approachable. He is a lifelong learner and continually strives to become a better teacher. He uses his own unique blend of genuine interest, empathy, sarcasm and humor and is known to be “a genius” when it comes to human interaction and behavior. It is the life lessons that students come to receive because they know that Smithyman understands their lives, problems, and will give great advice.

As an ELA teacher, Bill believes students should write on a daily basis. He has an ongoing classroom blogging project in which a daily prompt is posted and students must respond to the prompt while not repeating what a previous post has said. Students claim that the task is quite difficult, but the benefit is learning how to write analytically.

Smithyman’s students produce strong results and consistently score higher than district, state and national averages. One indicator of this success is his sophomore students’ performance on the PSAT during the beginning of their junior year. The average composite score of his 10th grade ELA students is over 181, compared to the state (153), Midwest region (150) and nation (142). Other evidence is represented in last year’s AP Language scores, the highest in the school’s 22-year history—also beating national averages.

He has taught at Blue Valley Northwest High School for 15 years. He graduated from Drake University with a Bachelor of Science in education in 2000 and from Baker University with a Master of Science in education in 2004.