A middle-school principal from Ottumwa’s won the honor that some have described as “the Nobel Prize of teaching.” When officials with the state Department of Education came yesterday (Tuesday) to award Principal Davis Eidahl the Milken Award, he says they were in the middle of an assembly at the school before he realized the honor was for him. He says it’s about “bringing people together,” getting them to believe in a common goal and vision.
Eidahl’s credited with improving student achievement at schools where he’s worked, and creating programs to help students struggling with math and reading. With an education from Coe College and Drake University, Eidahl was a classroom teacher before serving as principal at Davis County Schools, then in Ottumwa where he works now at Evans Middle School.
Eidahl says he’s “been blessed” over the years to work with school leaders who were good models, and claims he just mimicked their example in leading schools where he says he had success because he was surrounded by “good, quality people.” Eidahl was also honored for making sure teachers at schools he’s run get plenty of ongoing career development. “Teachers are probably one of the best examples of life-long learners,” Eidahl says. He compares them to doctors, saying the good ones aren’t still using methods they learned 20 years ago.
Of social problems like child exploitation, crime or meth, Eidahl was asked what his greatest concern is for students today. Eidahl says probably 60-percent of the families in his district live in poverty, and he thinks that hardship includes all those concerns. With poverty comes many more challenges, he says, including more exposure to meth and other challenges the teachers face in the classroom.
The awards, which come with a 25-thousand-dollar cash prize, will be handed out at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. next May.