Alum earns national award

Friday, November 4, 2011

Photo of Nicole Keegan, responding to news she won a national education award

Rapid City middle school teacher Nicole Keegan responds to news she won a national education award.

Nicole (Fellows) Keegan ‘01, a Rapid City, S.D., middle school teacher, is one of 40 teachers to receive a national teaching honor.

The Sioux Falls, S.D., native earned a $25,000 cash Milken Educator Award that acknowledges her excellence as a teacher.

“I was really surprised,” Keegan said. "Teaching is a very humble profession with very little recognition of this magnitude, so it’s quite an honor and at the same time disappointing that more educators cannot have this experience.”

Milken Educator Awards have honored more than 2,500 K-12 teachers, principals and specialists nationally, with more than $63 million in individual, unrestricted $25,000 awards. View the list of 2011 recipients.

Based in Santa Monica, Calif., the award was launched in 1987 by the Milken Family Foundation and education reform leader Lowell Milken. The award, for which there is no formal application process, is known as "the Academy Award of education."

Keegan began her St. Cloud State career as biology major, but soon decided it was biology education that struck her fancy. She holds bachelor of science degrees in biology and general computer science.

Keegan, who did her student teaching in her home town, applied for a job in Rapid City and hasn’t looked back.

She’s spent 11 years there, teaching sixth- and seventh-grade science along with seventh grade social studies and foreign languages.

As a student, Keegan was active in the SCSU Rowing Club, serving as president and vice president.

It was at St. Cloud State that she began dating her husband-to-be, Michael Keegan ’00, who graduated with a business degree and is director of student activities and leadership development at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City.

As a teacher, Keegan has served on a number of building, district and state committees, along with various national committees.

Keegan coaches volleyball, basketball, weight-training and track-and-field. For the past five years, she has served as a teacher mentor for new staff members and is on the Dakota Leadership Team, a group of teachers who plan staff development activities.

Keegan learned of the award during a surprise Oct. 24 assembly at Dakota Middle School in central Rapid City.

The event included a video congratulations from South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and a personal visit by Jane Foley of the Milken Family Foundation.

Keegan and her husband have discussed using some of the award money to pay for the doctorate program he is pursuing.

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