The surprise on her face was moving.

Journey Elementary School teacher Rebecca Junge  stood in front of an auditorium full of her students and peers to accept the Milken Educator Award, which included an unrestricted $25,000 to do with what she wanted.

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Junge was presented the award by Wyoming's First Lady, Jennie Gordon, along with Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder and Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher; all of whom had glowing reviews of the work Becky has done inside and outside of her classroom.

“For Rebecca Junge, education is a living experience where students learn to think independently, explore self-identity and engage as productive citizens in our society,” Gallagher said. “I commend Rebecca for blazing this important path at Journey, and proudly welcome her into the national Milken Educator Network.”

According to a press release from the Milken Educator Awards, Junge has joined more than 60 other educators coast-to-coast who have received or will receive the award during the 2021-2022 school year. She is the second recipient from Wyoming, joining a social studies teacher at Central High School in Cheyenne named Aaron Kruger.

“As this season’s recipient of the Milken Award, Rebecca Junge is everything a teacher should be - and she fulfills her role that goes above and beyond all expectations,” said Brian Schroeder, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Caring, incredibly creative, obviously very hard-working, it’s teachers like Rebecca who will inspire some of our youth to become the same. Besides all of her other notable accomplishments in the classroom, I especially love what she’s done with financial literacy and what she does with special needs kids. Congratulations, Rebecca, and thank you for what you have done with - and for - our youth. You are one of Wyoming’s finest teachers and we are in awe of you.”

According to the press release, Junge showed excellence in a variety of subjects, including:

Civic Engagement: Junge was one of the first Journey teachers to implement WyoTowne, a civic engagement and financial literacy program for students across Wyoming. As part of the program, Junge transforms her classroom into a campaign headquarters, where the electoral process comes to life as students run for class mayor. She has become a go-to resource for WyoTowne educators statewide. Junge’s student mayor was invited to speak and deliver a proclamation at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming WyoTowne breakfast.

School Leadership: As the fourth grade team leader, Junge dives into student data to help develop strategies that best serve learners’ needs. She leads Journey’s math team, sits on the school leadership team, and serves as building assessment facilitator and NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) coordinator. Junge embraces the culture and methodology of project-based learning and shares her expertise freely with colleagues. She will drop everything to help a colleague, including adapting to shifting technology and strategies through the pandemic.

 Giving Back: Community service is a priority for Junge, who comes from a family of special education teachers. She has coached athletes, coordinated events, raised money and recruited volunteers for the Special Olympics. Junge volunteers for Our Camp Inc., a summer camp for individuals with disabilities, and helps put on “Night to Shine,” a prom for special needs youth. Junge brings this passion for service to her students, organizing class volunteer activities and UNICEF fund drives.

Education: Junge earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2012 from the University of Wyoming and a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2016 from Adams State University.

"I'm so honored," Junge told K2 Radio News. "I work with some of the most amazing people in the city of Casper. I think that the people in our building just go above and beyond and do everything that we can to do what's best for kids all the time. So I just feel like I am, right now, the face of what everybody in this building does. It's unique to me. I am, by no means, the only one that does any of this stuff. So I'm just really humbled and honored and I'm trying to hold it together."

She held it together well as an auditorium full of students, peers, and Wyoming's leaders stood up to honor everything Becky has done and everything she will do. Oprah Winfrey even recorded a video message, congratulating the Milken Awards recipients:

Journey Elementary School has a motto that it teaches students, but it can also be applied to teachers. In this case, it absolutely applies to Becky Junge, because she has proven herself to be known, to be loved, to be cherished, to be unique, essential, and irreplaceable. There is no one like her. And Becky Junge, on this day and every day, is a hero.

Casper Teacher Becky Junge Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Journey Elementary School teacher Becky Junge received the $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Friday and was presented with it by Wyoming's First Lady Jennie Gordon, along with Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder and the Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher.