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Dracut teacher suprised with $25,000 national award

DRACUT – According to the Boston Globe, eighth grade teacher, Rebecca Duda was surprised Wednesday morning with a 2009 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award and check for $25,000 during a school assembly in Dracut.

Rebecca Duda teaches 8th grade history/social studies at Lakeview Junior High School in Dracut.  She is the state's 37th Milken Award winner and one of only 53 recipients nationwide in 2009-2010.

The Milken Family Foundation calls the award the "Oscars of Teaching," stating that the Milken awards were established to provide public recognition and individual rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

Duda's award was presented by Dr. Jane Foley, the senior vice president for the Milken Family Foundation, and Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

"Rebecca sets the tone for the kind of passionate and committed teachers we strive to have in every classroom in the Commonwealth," said Governor Deval Patrick in a press release issued by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. "Her dedication to teaching is inspiring to us all, and I thank her for her service."

"One of the best parts of my job is going into schools and seeing teachers who really inspire their students, and Rebecca is definitely one of those teachers," said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester according to the Milken Family Foundation. "The best educator is one who does whatever is necessary to reach every student and make a difference in their lives. Rebecca is one of those teachers and we are lucky to have her."

In nominating her for the award, Vice Principal Frank D'Addario noted that Duda takes a "creative" approach in teaching even the most mundane areas of the curriculum, frequently brings in guest speakers and incorporates hands-on activities in her work. He credited her energy and enthusiasm for motivating even the most reluctant students to understand, learn and appreciate history and social studies in a new way.

Recipients each receive a check for $25,000, a trip to Los Angeles for a conference and awards ceremony, and membership in the network of previous Milken winners.

For more information on the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards program and to read the original press release, visit the Foundation's website at