Lake Stevens Journal - Your hometown newspaper since 1960


By Pam Stevens
Managing Editor 

Lake Stevens High School teacher Alderson awarded $25,000, receives Milken Educator Award


October 31, 2011

It was all hush, hush around Lake Stevens School District with only a handful of people knowing what was really going to happen at last Tuesday’s Lake Stevens High School assembly.

Students packed in the high school’s gym thinking they were being honored for the school’s “go green” efforts, which included the recent installation of solar panels at the school.

With the High School band encouraging everyone to get into the spirit, dignitaries lining the front of the gym and media scattered along the floor—camera at the ready, students and faculty soon figured out that something more was going on.

Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction, was joined by State Senator Steve Hobbs, LSSD Superintendent Dr. Amy Beth Cook, School Board President Dave Iseminger and Dr. Tom Boyson from the Milken Family Foundation to honor a special teacher from the High School.

Students got excited when Dr. Boyson slowly unveiled the amount of a cash prize that was going to be awarded to that still unknown teacher and the crowd cheered as zeros were added to the number.

Dorn reminded the students that their teachers are there to help them succeed.

“I want to remind people of the hard work staff does on a regular basis to make your lives better,” he said.

Boyson echoed Dorn’s comments saying, “Teachers have the most important job in America.”

As Boyson announced the name, “Daniel Alderson” the crowd cheered and immediately broke into a chant screaming, “Al-der-son; Al-der-son!”

Out of the a hidden corner of the gym three of Alderson’s four daughters flew into his arms, the shock on his face obvious as he stepped up to the mike.

“Dan truly is a role model for all of us,” Dorn said. He gives 110 percent everyday in the classroom, among his colleagues and in the community. Every kid and teacher in this school admires and respects him.”

Alderson approached the crowd humbly and emotionally.

“As Dr. Boyson was sharing the criteria for this award I was thinking of so many of my colleagues for whom this could apply. All I can say is thank you. I’m hoping you are not expecting any great speech other than just, thank you,” he said.

The Milken Foundation recognizes teachers across the nation who exemplify exceptional instructional practices and student learning results.

Boyson’s list of criteria included persistence, resourcefulness and a passion for nurturing and teaching. The winner will also have exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence, strong long-range potential for professional leadership and an inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community, he explained.

Alderson said that during High School he knew he wanted to be a teacher and was motivated by his social studies teacher Robert Whalen. After talking to family and friends he chose to go into the grocery business because he felt he wouldn’t be able to make enough money teaching.

Twelve years later he realized that teaching was his passion and returned to school completing his degree at Gonzaga University.

He was hired on at Lake Stevens High School in the fall of 2004 as a part-time teacher which turned into a full-time position shortly after he started.

As evidenced by this prestigious award, Alderson’s passion has transferred into the classroom at Lake Stevens High School.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn, LSSD Superintendent Amy Beth Cook and Dr. Tom Boyson of the Milken Foundation award Dan Alderson and three of his daughters with a check for $25,000.

“Dan is a deep thinker and an exceptional professional,” Lake Stevens High School Principal Eric Cahan said. “This award highlights the excellent instruction in the building and the level of professionalism in the school.”

When Alderson was asked what motivates him in the classroom he said it was his passion and love of students and finding ways to reach and teach each one, whatever it takes. While looking at his kids he said, “My guide is ‘What’s best for kids?’—I use the ‘Emily test,’ if it’s not good enough for my daughter, than it’s not good enough for my students.”

What’s he going to do with that $25,000? Right now he’s not sure but 10-year-old Eryn knew just what she wanted to do with it.

“Five Guys Burgers and Fries Dad,” she exclaimed.

For more information on the Milken Award please visit


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