Tyler Hallstedt’s teaching style is so successful that even the principal at his Mt. Juliet school said she is tempted to pull up a desk and learn some U.S. history in his class.
And now the Mt. Juliet Middle School social studies teacher has received national recognition for his educational efforts.
Hallstedt was named a Milken Family Foundation Educator Award winner at an assembly at Green Hill High School. He is one of 60 winners across the country – one of two from Tennessee – and is the first Wilson County teacher to win the award.
Gov Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn attended the event to announce Hallstedt as the winner and present him with a check for $25,000.
“Thank you to my students who show up and work hard every day. They make teaching fun. There are a lot of difficult parts to being a teacher, but I always want to build that relationship between the student and teacher,” Hallstedt said.
This is his seventh year teaching in Wilson County. He taught fourth graders at Lakeview Elementary and then came to MJMS five years ago. Hallstedt, a 2013 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, coaches the middle school’s tennis and wrestling teams and works with the choir.
The cash award can be for any expense Hallstedt chooses. He said that he wants to take the MJMS social studies teaching team out for a steak dinner.
Hallstedt will also receive an all-expenses paid trip to California in June to meet the other Milken Award winners.
Some of the activities that Hallstedt has used in his lesson plans include having students write journals from the point-of-view of indentured servants, colonists and pioneers on the Oregon Trail; write Constitutional amendments and advocate for their passage; and create their own colonies with school, laws and demographics. In 2020, Hallstedt timed his constitutional law unit to coincide with the Presidential inauguration.
“I have 30 eighth graders for one hour. I may as well have fun with the lessons so they will have fun with it while learning,” Hallstedt said.
“He interacts with the students in a way that no one else does,” said MJMS eighth grader Preston Kidd.
MJMS Principal Dr. Candis Angle said she was notified of Hallstedt’s award about five months ago with the stipulation of keeping the news secret. Thursday’s event had been promoted as one to recognize literacy projects in the school.
“Every time I walk into Mr. Hallstedt’s classroom he is engaging the students in a variety of activities,” Angle said. “He is so mesmerizing that I don’t want to leave.”
Hallstedt led a districtwide effort to collect social studies instructional materials to be made available to teachers. During remote and hybrid learning periods, Hallstedt shared his technology skills with other teachers to ensure students participating at home had the same opportunities to learn as those in the classroom.
“Any time you see one of your educators honored with such a prestigious award, it is just tremendous,” WCS Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell said. “It not only shows the role this educator plays but also the role education plays in our process every day.”
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley, a Milken Award winner in 1994, said that no one applies for the awards; instead, the foundation uses a confidential national search process to select the winners.
“Tennessee’s educators play a critical role in ensuring students are prepared for life beyond the classroom,” Lee said. “I commend Tyler for the profound impact he’s made on the Wilson County community and congratulate him on this high honor.”