By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 10, 2019
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Valdosta Early College Academy is getting national recognition.
On Thursday, Assistant Professor Dr. Johnnie Marshall was surprised with the award of a lifetime, honored with the Milken Educator Award. It's considered by many educators to be the industry's highest honor, known as the 'Oscar's' of teaching.
The Milken Foundation presents the award to about 40 teachers, making the biggest difference around the nation.
Dr. Marshall is the only recipient in Georgia. Thursday's presentation was disguised as a special assembly to welcome State Superintendent Dr. Richard Woods. Marshall said he was shocked, honored and humbled by the surprise.
He said educating is his calling, and although this is a proud moment, it's all about the students and helping them to reach their brightest futures.
"Individuals are watching, and they're seeing the great things that educators are doing in the world," Marshall said. "Seeing them grow and become who they want to become, and to become a productive citizen is what's rewarding. That gives me energy every single day."
Marshall is recognizes, in part, for his dedication to bringing technology to students. He started the 1:1 device initiative, a partnership with Valdosta State University to give every student in the school access to a tablet or laptop.
"We live in a global society, and in order for our students to become global competitors, they need to interact with such devices so that they can meet students from across the world, and collaborate with individuals across the world," Marshall said.
State Superintendent Woods said an award like this brings recognition to VECA, and acknowledges the dedication to education all across South Georgia.
Woods said 61 percent of Georgia students are in poverty. Schools like VECA, offering duel enrollment and opportunities for first generation college students, are the first steps to changing that.
"Education is that game changer, it is something that can open up any door," Woods said. "How do we prepare our kids for life? One of the ways we do that is giving them a pathway to life beyond us. Getting them ready for a career, and that means for many of these kids, and most of the kids, they need to pursue something in higher education."
Aside from national recognition, Marshall will also receive a check for $25,000. On Thursday he said he was still too in shock to think about what he's going to do with it.
All of this year's winners will then meet for a collaborative forum in Indianapolis in March.