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Jersey City Science Teacher Honored With Prestigious $25,000 Award

Milken Family Foundation Hands Out Up To 40 Educator Awards Each Year
Students at Jersey City's Christa McAuliffe School surround teacher Robert O'Donnell following the announcement that he won the Milken Educator Award. (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

Students at Jersey City’s Christa McAuliffe School surround teacher Robert O’Donnell following the announcement that he won the Milken Educator Award. (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A Jersey City science teacher has been honored with what’s been labeled the Oscars of Teaching.

Students and faculty at PS-28 Christa McAuliffe School packed into the auditorium for what they were told was a college seminar.

But instead, a representative from the Milken Family Foundation surprised eighth grade teacher Robert O’Donnell with the recognition.

“We go all over the country to find the best,” Dr. Jane Foley with the Milken Family Foundation said at the assembly on Wednesday. “You don’t find us, we find you.”

O’Donnell was honored with the state’s only Milken Educator Award. The foundation hands out up to 40 awards each year.

“It’s humbling. I was up there shaking a little bit,” O’Donnell said. “Very much appreciated but definitely not expected.”

The science teacher gets a $25,000 gift.

New Jersey Department of Education Director of the Office of Evaluation Tim Matheney (L) and Dr. Jane Foley stand with Christa McAuliffe School science teacher Robert O'Donnell, the 2013 New Jersey winner of the Milken Education Award.  (credit: Milken Family Foundation)

New Jersey Department of Education Director of the Office of Evaluation Tim Matheney and Dr. Jane Foley stand with Christa McAuliffe School science teacher Robert O’Donnell, the 2013 New Jersey winner of the Milken Educator Award. (credit: Milken Family Foundation)

O’Donnell has worked with students to rehabilitate the Pershing Field Reservoir.

“I give them a hands-on approach to science and try to instill that love and appreciation within them,” he said.

Students said they weren’t surprised O’Donnell won the prestigious award.

“Mr. O’Donnell is really generous,” eighth grader Gianna Flores told Putney. “I think he’s cool, I think he’s awesome, I think he’s amazing, I think he’s everything.”

“He’s like a father I would say to us,” another student told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.

“I felt there’s no other one that it could’ve been,” a student added.

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