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Pactolus' VanBuskirk Receives National Milken Educator Award

Pactolus' VanBuskirk Receives National Milken Educator Award


Ainsley VanBuskirk, a first grade teacher at Pactolus Global School, garnered national accolades Friday with her selection as a Milken Educator Award recipient. She was honored during a morning assembly in front of students and staff at the school.

The Milken Family Foundation bestows the award annually to recognize exceptional early-to-mid career education professionals. Candidates for the award are identified through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

In addition to receiving a $25,000 prize, VanBuskirk will join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of nearly 3,000 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.

In her ninth overall year within the PCS system, VanBuskirk joined the Pactolus faculty in 2020 after serving in a similar role at Belvoir Elementary beginning in August of 2014 and starting her career as an exceptional children’s teacher assistant at Chicod School eight months earlier.

Through the implementation of engaging, hands-on activities, real-world examples and multimedia resources to enhance learning, VanBuskirk creates a tailored curriculum to accommodate various learning styles while taking special care to ensure every student has the opportunity to succeed. With an emphasis on creating an environment that promotes trust, empathy and mutual understanding, she places value on effective and respectful communication, which prompts further academic and social growth for her students.

As a grade-level chair and facilitating teacher, VanBuskirk collaborates with international colleagues to determine how best to support biliteracy instruction and bridge languages to increase dual-language learners’ growth and proficiency. She mentors new teachers by helping them acclimate to the culture of their school and the district, and has implemented development programs like Reading Horizons and Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), aimed at providing a tailored approach to match academic, social-emotional behavior assessment and instructional resources to each student’s needs.

She earned an associate's degree from Pitt Community College in 2011 before following with a bachelor's degree in elementary education from East Carolina University in 2013. VanBuskirk, who holds membership in the Pitt County Association of Educators, is National Board certified.

"As our world continues to become more interconnected, Ms. VanBuskirk inspires the next generation of global learners and leaders through best practices and dual language instruction," State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said. "As a facilitating teacher at Pactolus, she helps support bilingual literacy instruction to increase students’ growth and proficiency with some of the youngest learners in our state. The skills Ms. VanBuskirk fosters in her classroom set her students up for success in their journey."

VanBuskirk, who was named PCS Teacher of the Year last March, is the district's first Milken Educator Award honoree since former J.H. Rose High School mathematics teacher Margaret Wirth was recognized in 1999.

Selectees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in June 2024, where they will network with their new colleagues, as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.

In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFF) mentoring program, in which new 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. Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.

The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the award.

Milken Educators Awards website