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Manzano teacher wins national award

Manzano High School Spanish and Italian teacher Andy Cook hugs Annelise Mendez, a junior at the school, after he won a $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Friday. The Milken Educator Award Is presented to outstanding teachers around the nation. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Manzano High School Spanish and Italian teacher Andy Cook hugs Annelise Mendez, a junior at the school, after he won a $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Friday. The Milken Educator Award Is presented to outstanding teachers around the nation. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Andrew Cook, a Spanish and Italian teacher at Manzano High School, dropped his head into his hands when his name was called out in the school’s gymnasium Friday morning.

The students who filled the gym’s bleachers erupted in shouts and applause, and those next to Cook slapped him on the back in encouragement.

Cook, a 1997 graduate of Manzano who has taught at the northeast Albuquerque school for the past 12 years, was named a winner of the Milken Educator Award.

Dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching,” the award is given to outstanding teachers, said Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards.

The award comes with more than just recognition. Winners also receive a $25,000 check they are free to spend however they wish.

Manzano senior Alma Robles, who has had Cook as a teacher, said he deserves the award.

“He makes it easy to learn,” she said. “He’s just really interactive and nice.”

Manzano High School teacher Andy Cook reacts as he is named a winner of the Milken Educator Award. He is the only teacher in the state to win the prestigious award this year. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Manzano High School teacher Andy Cook reacts as he is named a winner of the Milken Educator Award. He is the only teacher in the state to win the prestigious award this year. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Before announcing Cook was the winner, Foley told the crowd about the award and said it is important to recognize outstanding teachers.

Foley also said the Milken Educator Awards don’t accept applications or recommendations. She said the organization works with state education departments to find outstanding teachers.

As for Cook, Foley said there are many reasons he deserves the honor.

He exemplifies what we’re looking for in a teacher,” she said. “He gets kids excited about learning. … You saw the reaction of the students. They stood up, shouted and high-fived for him.”

Cook serves as the school’s department chairman of modern and classical languages, according to a news release. He was also the first teacher in New Mexico to become a nationally board certified teacher of foreign languages, the release reads.

And Cook uses project-based learning in his classroom, the release said. His students write screenplays using their newly acquired language skills, then act, direct, shoot and edit the dramatic productions.

Cook said it felt very good to win the award.

Asked how he gets students excited in class, he said, “How do I engage the students? I’m engaged myself.”

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