Frank Caro awarded Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award
Tigard High School teacher Frank Caro thought that Monday's morning assembly was going to be about staying drug-free.
In reality, the assembly was a surprise announcement naming Caro one of the best teachers in the country.
'I had no idea whatsoever,' Caro said after the event. 'I had no clue.'
Caro, who has taught at the school since 2004, was awarded the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award - a prestigious award given to exemplary teachers from across the nation.
The surprise announcement is an honor, Caro said, but he said he doesn't deserve all of the credit.
'There are so many great teachers,' Caro said. 'Teaching is not in a vacuum; my students come to me from other teachers. I feel honored, but I definitely don't see this as an individual thing. When I have colleagues say that they are glad that I got it, it is a really big compliment for me, because they understand.'
Caro, 35, is the only Oregon teacher to win the award this year, and the only teacher to ever win at Tigard High School.
Known as the Oscars of teaching, the Milken awards are one of the nation's preeminent teaching awards, given to only 40 people each year. The award comes with a $25,000 cash prize.
Caro, a psychology teacher at Tigard, is widely known around the district as a passionate educator and is one of the most popular teachers at the high school. He also advises several student clubs, including the National Honor Society.
Caro studied psychology in college, and he said part of his success as a teacher is his knowledge on the subjects he teaches about.
'How we teach our students is a set of skills that we can adjust and grow with,' he said. 'But once we know the material and are comfortable with it, we can make teaching it into an art, which is ultimately what teaching really is.'
Being able really to interact with students, rather than just delivering material and then moving on, is one of the most important things a teacher can do, he said.
'A computer program could do that,' he said. 'But we need that interaction, it is a key to learning, and a lot of learning is emotional.'
Recognition for his hard work is nothing new to Caro. He was named Tigard-Tualatin's Teacher of the Year in 2009.
State Superintendent Susan Castillo, who attended Monday's ceremony, said Caro's ability to make his lessons interesting to students has endeared him to his students and earned him the respect of his fellow teachers. And, she said, his high energy and enthusiasm make him stand out as a teacher.
'Great teachers change lives, inspire excellence and shape the future,' Castillo said. 'Far too often, these dedicated educators do not receive the appreciation or recognition that they deserve.' This award, she said, is a 'very big thank you to outstanding young educators like Frank Caro for all that they, and their colleagues, do every day.'
The last teacher in the Tigard-Tualatin schools to receive the award was Bridgeport Elementary School teacher Mike Tomlinson in 1998.
Caro, who was noticeably surprised by the announcement on Monday, insisted that the award wasn't for him but for everyone at Tigard.
'This is not just a 'me' thing; it's about all of us,' he told the packed crowd of Tigard staff and students. 'This is my life here, and my job here is so great because of the staff and all the students.'