Largest Unrestricted K-12 Teaching Award Created by Kinders, KIPP

Published November 1, 2005

Houston philanthropists Rich and Nancy Kinder announced in September they have partnered with the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) to create the Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award. The $100,000 unrestricted award is the largest ever to honor a teacher in the United States.

“Rich and Nancy Kinder’s philanthropy and vision made this possible,” said Steve Mancini, KIPP’s director of public affairs. “Rich’s mother, Edna, was a beloved teacher devoted to the profession. This award honors her commitment.”

Honoring Demonstrated Results

The Kinder Award will be made in the summer of 2006, presented to a teacher who has demonstrated strong results with students–at least 50 percent of whom must qualify for the federal free- and reduced-price lunch program. Both public and private school teachers are eligible. The deadline for nominations is December 31.

Mancini emphasized nominees must have a proven track record in the classroom and “measurable results [in] improving student achievement.”

KIPP is nationally regarded for its academic successes with previously underserved students. Its network of 45 public schools serves a population that is 90 percent minority, with roughly 75 percent qualifying for the free- and reduced-price lunch program.

KIPP spokeswoman Debbie Fine said the organization’s partnership with the Kinders is not new, noting the couple has commended more than 30 KIPP teachers with $10,000 awards over the past four years.

“As an administrative partner in this award process, no KIPP teacher will be eligible this year,” Fine clarified. “We believe that our role is indicative of our commitment to the larger debate surrounding teachers and the teaching profession.”

Stoking Debate Over Salaries

Mancini said the award was created not simply to reward one teacher but also to bring attention to the connection between talented teachers, academic gains for students, and the value of teacher compensation.

“Teachers are the heart and soul of education in America,” Mancini said. “We hope to send a message: If successful businessmen, lawyers, and doctors earn six-figure salaries, so should exemplary teachers. To close the achievement gap, we need great teachers.”

Mancini explained KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg has long hoped an award like this might help stimulate respect for the teaching profession. Ultimately, Mancini said, both the Kinders and KIPP envision a teaching profession where six-figure salaries are the norm, rather than the exception.

Expecting Thousands of Nominations

Hundreds of nominations already have been submitted, Mancini said, and he believes thousands more will come in before the deadline.

After that, a screening committee will select 20 finalists to be reviewed by a panel that includes the Kinders, Feinberg, two former KIPP teachers, and a handful of other education experts. The panel will then choose the award recipient.

Kate McGreevy ([email protected]) is a freelance education writer living in New Mexico. She formerly worked with the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy in Washington, DC.

For more information …

To learn more about the Kinder Awards or nominate a teacher, please visit

Information on the Knowledge Is Power Program is available online at