FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – One Fresno teacher got a surprise she says she could have never imagined on Tuesday.
To her knowledge, it was only supposed to be an assembly.
Katie McQuone, the Video Production Academy coordinator at Sunnyside High School, had no idea she would be walking away with $25,000.
“I thought it was a joke,” McQuone said. “Everyone kept saying all week, ‘Oh, it’s an assembly.’”
McQuone won the Milken Educator Award, an award that recognizes teachers across the country for their efforts in being a role model for students.
“We’re looking for very specific things in terms of our criteria, and Katie exemplifies all of those to an ultimate level,” said Jane Foley, the senior vice president of the Milken Family Foundation. “We’re looking for educators whose practices are innovative with results.”
McQuone is one of only 40 educators to receive the award in the country. She said she thinks her commitment to building relationships with her students is what sets her apart.
“If you talk to our principal or anyone from this school, the biggest thing at Sunnyside is relationships,” she said. “It’s all about the relationships with the kids, and I’m just very, very, very close with all of my students.”
The influence she’s had on her students was felt in the gymnasium as students stood up and cheered as soon as McQuone’s name was called.
Sunnyside High School senior Vionda Ayala said McQuone is someone who’s had a positive impact in her life.
“McQuone, gosh. She definitely deserves this award 10 times because she’s such a great teacher and not only a great teacher, she’s such a good role model, and her school spirit is off the charts,” Ayala said.
And the Milken Family Foundation agrees.
“When you saw the students stand up, you know that you cannot coach that in students. It happens from within,” Foley said. “She is such a strong influence and role model for them.”
This is not the only time McQuone said she’s had cameras surrounding her in that same gymnasium.
The last time I was in the gym like this, I got proposed to and so there were cameras there for that, and I was sitting in that same spot, and here, it felt exactly the same, being surprised in front of all the students.Katie McQuone
“The last time I was in the gym like this, I got proposed to and so there were cameras there for that, and I was sitting in that same spot, and here, it felt exactly the same, being surprised in front of all the students,” she said.
As to where the money will go, McQuone said she needs to pay student loans and would like to maybe go on a vacation. But she added there isn’t one day she doesn’t want to go to work.
“I love kids. I love being around their energy,” McQuone said. “There’s never a day that I come here and I don’t want to be here. I feel lucky that I get to come to work every day and really have a good time.”
McQuone herself graduated from Sunnyside High School.
“It’s really exciting to come here and now work with the kids and show them that you can be from Southeast Fresno and love your job and enjoy what you do and have fun and win awards,” she said.