May 4, 2010
Chris Brewster, founder and principal of Santa Fe South School in Oklahoma City, recently received the 2010 National Milken Educator Award from State Superintendent Sandy Garrett, including an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. Brewster and his wife, Christina, are 1992 Oklahoma Baptist University graduates.
Each year, a teacher or principal from every state is chosen by a committee to receive the award. Oklahoma has participated in the Milken Educator Awards since 2000. The Los Angeles-based foundation will give 51 teachers across the nation the distinction this year. The award includes an all-expense-paid trip for Brewster and his fellow 50 winners to Los Angeles during the spring.
"I was trying to figure out which teacher was receiving the award because we have very talented teachers," Brewster said. "I believe that's the reason I received the award - because I hire talented teachers and they do good work."
The national selection committee chooses educators who possess an inspiring presence and have exceptional talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices, exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom and long-range potential for professional leadership.
Brewster received his bachelor's degree from OBU and his master's degree from the University of Oklahoma. He has served as principal of Santa Fe South for nine years since he founded it in 2001. Prior to that, he served as assistant principal of Deer Creek High School and vocal music instructor with Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City.
"Every single year, I'm grateful for the education I received at OBU," Brewster said. "OBU's undergraduate program is simply exceptional. I hope my children choose to attend there. Not only is it a Christian education, but as a professional educator, I realize now what an exceptional opportunity it was. It had a profound impact on our lives."
Brewster also serves as youth pastor at Southpark Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. He said his considerations for what he will do with his award include tithing to his church, where he has served as a bi-vocational minister for 18 years, and setting up college funds for his four children. He also hopes to support his family members who have careers in international missions; Brewster grew up as a "missionary kid" in the Philippines, and his brother serves in Brazil.
Santa Fe South is a charter school, which is a public school that operates similarly to a private school. What started with about 120 students nearly a decade ago has grown to 1,300 children in kindergarten through 12th grade. About 95 percent of the students live at or below the poverty level, and 85-90 percent are first-generation immigrant students. Most are bi-lingual and speak Spanish as a first language at home. The majority of students are first-generation high school graduates and first-generation college attendees.
Brewster said his international experience has served him well working in a cross-cultural environment, but he relies heavily on a great teaching staff to make Santa Fe South successful.
"I'm always looking for good teachers who are willing to put their faith to work," he said, noting he is always happy to consider OBU graduates because he knows first-hand the education they receive on Bison Hill.