Interview with Milken Award Winner Ms. Capo

Jacqueline McConnell and Naiela Sulieman

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Leaders in the music industry receive the coveted Grammy, expert directors and actors received the illustrious Oscar, and all-star athletes receive the one-and-only Olympic medal, but what about the educators that taught these global leaders? The Milken Educator Foundation recognizes these educators annually with the Milken Educators Award. This year, one of our own, Ms. Capobianco, was honored with the award and the Hall community could not be more proud.

The Milken Educator Foundation was founded by both Lowell and Mike Milken with the goal of “reward[ing] and inspir[ing] excellence in the world of education by honoring top educators around the country with $25,000 unrestricted awards.” Over 2,700 awards have been handed out, totaling over $68 million. The names are announced in an “award show” fashion; the recipients have no idea. Attending a Milken Educator award ceremony is an entertaining experience in itself.

The Hall community is overwhelmed with joy and pride for Ms. Capo who teaches AP Seminar, American Literature, and Honors English 9 in our English department. Ms. Capo had attended the ceremony, as did her fellow teachers and students, with the understanding that there was an award ceremony to honor Hall’s work in human rights, which seemed like a legitimate event considering Hall’s “Human Rights Day” and overall dedication to the cause. Ironically, Ms. Capo almost didn’t make the ceremony, which sent the administration in a frenzy. Despite the scare, she arrived in time to accept her award while the school applauded her hard work as a top educator.

When asked what work she is most proud of, Ms. Capo says “it’s the students… they lead the discussion, they bring in new ideas… and I simply give them the tools to succeed with my support.” She believes that “the department is amazing, here at Hall and throughout West Hartford. There are so many people who really deserve [this award].” It is clear that Ms. Capo’s students thrive thanks to her empowering messages and discussion-based class structure; in return, her hard work has been honored with this national award.

Having had past experience with Ms. Capo, hearing of her award was very exciting. Sophomore year when I, along with 12 other peers, took AP Seminar I was timid and unconfident in my abilities to produce well written pieces and present to more than just myself in an empty room. As time progressed in Seminar, I began to see a change in myself and those around me. Ms. Capo is a very honest and supportive teacher. She finds a way to push students to see their mistakes and weaknesses in a positive light. Ms. Capo builds students up and makes them stronger writers and, in the case of AP Seminar, presenters as well. The connections that she creates with her students leave an impression and add so much to the learning experience that comes with AP Seminar.

Looking back on her education, Ms. Capo says that there was one teacher who stood out from her high school experience. “He was really tough, really sarcastic, but if you could win him over and show you cared about his class, he become your greatest ally.” He became a mentor for her and taught Ms. Capo that a great teacher truly cares about you and will do whatever it takes to see you succeed. Something that she clearly has carried with her into her own teaching here at Hall.

From all of us at Hall and the Milken Foundation, “we recognize you, we value you, we thank you.”

See a video of the award presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHHxvN21UOI

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