Alumni Services

Surprise teaching award for alumna

Katherine Watkins (MSc Literature and Modernity, 2009) is the recipient of a Milken Educator Award, which recognises excellent school teaching in the USA.

Katherine Watkins learns of her award
Katherine Watkins learns of her award

A trained jazz pianist, published poet, STEM teacher by summer, and English teacher by school year, Katherine is as well-rounded an educator as they come.

The Renaissance woman that she is, Katherine inspires her students at Millington Central High School in Tennessee to look at English-related content from all angles in order to keep them engaged. She even chronicles her travels abroad and photographs historic places to share with students, all related to locations and legends referenced in their assignments.


Now Katherine has become the first teacher in her locality to receive a Milken Educator Award, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize. Tennessee Commissioner of Education Dr Candice McQueen joined Milken Family Foundation chairman and co-founder Lowell Milken to surprise Katherine with the honour in front of a gymnasium filled with her peers, students, dignitaries and media.

Katherine was chosen to receive the award because she teaches outside the normal confines of the classroom and applies real-world scenarios that enliven and capture students' interest.

A published poet herself, Katherine also enjoys taking her class on field trips to see plays—an opportunity many of her students would not otherwise get to experience.

When the award was announced, I was in a total state of shock. I had no idea it was coming, and I could not shake the sense of unreality. Now that I have had an opportunity to process this development, I am beyond humbled to have been chosen for such a distinguished honour. I look forward to using the exposure and networking opportunities I have been afforded to make even more of an impact in the lives of students.

Katherine Watkins
Katherine surrounded by her students and colleagues
Katherine surrounded by her students and colleagues

Katherine is among up to 45 honorees who will receive the recognition for 2017-18, and she can use the cash prize however she chooses.

The Awards

The Milken Educator Awards - now in their 30th year - not only aim to reward great teachers, but also to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders.

Katherine Watkins knows the value of preparing young people for success in an interconnected world. Literature, and the history it tells, ties us to the generations before us and provides us with the knowledge and tools that inform our own roles in the world around us. Katherine's lessons are beyond educational: They are palpable. I congratulate her on this award and am confident that she will impact the profession for decades to come."

Lowell MilkenFounder of the Milken Educator Awards

At Edinburgh

Katherine has fond memories of her time at the University of Edinburgh, and credits it with broadening her horizons in the field of literature.

Edinburgh is my favourite city in the world. No contest. I traveled there initially as an undergraduate on a study abroad program and fell instantly in love. From that moment on, I made it my number-one goal to return and live there. My program of study was Literature and Modernity: 1900 to the Present, and I was thrilled to be able to take courses from some of the most preeminent scholars of twentieth-century literature, like Dr. Randall Stevenson, whose work I had studied as an undergrad. This privileged access deepened my understanding of texts I have since gone on to teach in my own classes, and there is rarely a lesson I plan that does not in some way draw upon skills or insights I gained from my studies at Edinburgh.

Katherine Watkins

Katherine also credits her time at the University with developing her ability to relate to a diverse and international group of people:

In addition to the quality of education I received at the University of Edinburgh, I also benefitted from the opportunity to interact with diverse peers from all over the world. Edinburgh is a truly international institution, and I took advantage of the special opportunity it afforded me to make friends with as many different people as I could and to learn about their unique cultures and traditions. This prepared me for my career as an educator by strengthening my ability to build relationships and form connections with anyone, regardless of background or heritage.

Katherine Watkins

Your alumni impact

Have you or someone you know made an impact? Get in touch and tell us your story:

Brian Campbell

Communications Manager

  • Development and Alumni

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Related links

Milken Educator Awards (external link)

School of Literatures, Languages and Culture