By Sue Kiesewetter
COLERAIN TWP. - When Marti Kendinger stood up during a Colerain High School assembly Thursday in her honor she had one thought.
"I was just hoping it wasn't a mistake, that it wasn't a joke," Kendinger said.
All 2,200 students were on hand as Kendinger received a $25,000 Milken National Educator Award, dubbed the "Oscar of Teaching" by Teacher magazine. Only 100 teachers - including two in Ohio - will receive the award this year.
The money can be used however the recipient chooses.
"It didn't click. I thought they were kidding,'' said Kendinger.
Her name was announced before dozens of dignitaries that included legislators, educators and Cincinnati Reds owner Carl Lindner, who gave Mike Milken the envelope with Kendinger's name - Oscar style.
"This award truly represents everything that's great about Colerain High School," principal Maureen Heintz said.
Standing amid red and white balloons, Kendinger thanked her colleagues, students and the institute.
"I feel so blessed and honored today," Kendinger said. "We have such a strong community here."
Senior Cody Strecker said despite the nightly homework, he liked Kendinger's teaching style.
1993: Nancy Borchers, Ross Local Schools; Sandra Adams, Grant County Schools, Williamstown, Ky.
1994: Gregg Tracy, Cottonwood Elementary, Finneytown Schools
1995: Joyce Ann Winburn, Region IV Service Center, Covington, Ky.
1997: Ann Tolliver, Berry Middle School, Lebanon Schools; Sharon Draper, retired, Cincinnati Public Schools; Sarah Meece, Ryle High, Union, Ky.
1998: Henri Bradshaw, Silverton Paideia Elementary, Cincinnati Public Schools and Shirley Curtis, Elda Elementary, Ross Schools
1999: Alice Wails-Richmond, Southern Hills Vocational School; Bonnie Fancher, Switzerland County High School, Vevay, Ind.; Elizabeth McIntosh, Simon Kenton High, Independence, Ky.
2000: Susan Jefferson, Miamitown Elementary School, Southwest Local Schools
2002: Laura Mitchell, Westwood Elementary, Cincinnati Public Schools
"She presented complicated information in a way we could all understand," Strecker said. "I think doing that number of problems helped me learn. The way she taught us pre-calculus helped me this year in AP calculus."
Junior Jaime Schiferl agreed but it didn't stop her from trying to get today's quiz postponed.
"I wanted to sidetrack her. We tried but it didn't work," Schiferl said after getting her picture taken with Kendinger. "It's like we walk into class and know there's a lot of work but the work is fun."
Teaching, Kendinger said, wasn't her first choice as a profession, but it's one she has come to love after switching majors from pre-med to education.
"My dad believed highly in education and was proud of that choice I made," Kendinger said.
Kendinger developed the Colerain Freshman Academy to help at-risk students make the transition to high school. She tutors students before school each day and is known as "the queen of proficiency" because of her work with struggling students.
"Her passing rate is unbelievable," said Heintz.
The Milken Educator Awards was established by the Milken Family Foundation in 1985 with the first awards presented two years later. The program honors exceptional elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and other educators who are furthering excellence in schools.
Since it began 1,977 educators have been honored, receiving more than $49.4 million in awards.
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