Connecticut principal Desi Nesmith had no idea that the special school assembly he orchestrated to honor an educator with $25,000 was actually a surprise event set-up to honor his own achievements.

First there was shock, and then tears started to flow after his name was announced as the winner of the national Milken Educator Award, which recognized Nesmith for his outstanding leadership at Metacomet Elementary.

“The crowd went wild and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” (Watch the video, READ more below)

His noted success at shrinking the achievement gap for minority students in Connecticut dates back to 2010 when The Connecticut Association of Schools honored him with the Outstanding First-Year Principal Award for taking risks and overcoming adversity.

Previously, Mr. Nesmith’s leadership was recognized when his school was the most improved elementary school in Hartford in the results of the Connecticut Mastery Test for 2009-2010.

His mentor, the man he first hugged in the video, said, “If my own children were just starting elementary school, I would want Desi to be their principal… He’s that good for children.”

As director of elementary education for Hartford Public Schools, M. Leon McKinley first hired Nesmith as a teacher.

A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Mr. Nesmith was a fifth grade teacher at Mayberry School in East Hartford, where he was named Teacher of the Year. He later became a Teacher in Residence in the Connecticut State Department of Education’s School Improvement Unit.

Photo by Milken Family Foundation – Story tip from Kim Bagley

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