Dion Jones, a third-grade teacher at Fairland Elementary School in Silver Spring whose principal called a true leader, won the Milken Educator Award, which comes with a $25,000 prize.
“I thank you all. It’s been my pride and joy to serve,” Jones said while trying to hold back his emotions. “We show up just for you, because you are important to us,” Jones told students gathered at Tuesday’s school assembly.
The award came as a total shock. Jones explained he was told the assembly was held to honor all the good work being done at the school in Silver Spring.
Jones is tenacious, life-changing and a strong leader, according to the staff at Milken, who along with Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight, Principal LaKeisha Lashley, described and Maryland State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury, presented him with the award to a cheering student body.
Jones has taught at Fairland for six years and is one of 40 elementary educators who received the award during the 2022-2023 school year. He also received an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles in April to attend the Milken Educator Awards Forum.
“In his young career, he has already demonstrated himself as a leader, a teacher of excellence and a mentor to students and staff alike. For this, we are honored to present him with the Milken Educator Award today!” proclaimed Jane Foley, senior vice president at Milken. She said the award was considered “the Oscars of teaching.”
When asked how he would spend the money, Jones replied, “I don’t know. That’s a lot of money.”
Jones calls his students scholars and keeps them engaged by tying lessons to their personal interests. His students write a newspaper featuring stories about their classmates. In a lesson on audio technology, students interviewed family members about their experiences with record players.
Jones said his students both stumbled and grew during their virtual schooling due to COVID-19. During that time, he not only taught students how to use technology, but he also helped his fellow teachers.
Jones has a bachelor’s in elementary education from Coppin State University and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Grand Canyon University.
This article was updated Jan. 11 to include a MCM video of the event.