Rock Cave principal is first West Virginia educator to earn Lowell Milken Center fellowship

BUCKHANNON – An Upshur County educator is the first person in West Virginia to earn a Fellowship from the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes.

Rock Cave Elementary School principal Brian Allman will travel to the Lowell Milken Center in Fort Scott, Kansas on June 19 to work with other LMC staff members for a week.

The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes works with students and educators to develop history projects that highlight role models who demonstrate courage, compassion and respect, according to the center’s website. Students use project-based learning to explore and tell the stories of unsung heroes who have made a positive impact on the course of history.

Allman’s journey working with the center began three years ago.

“I won the West Virginia Milken Educator Award in 2019,” Allman told My Buckhannon. “There were 40 people the year I won — you get a cash prize of $25,000 and you join this national network, so that’s how I got affiliated with Milken Educator Network.”

Allman said the award was a big surprise.

“You don’t even know you’re being considered,” he said. “They come to the school and they surprise you during an assembly. That’s how I got involved with Milken to begin with.”

Now, he will take the collaboration a step further through the fellowship opportunity.

The LMC fellowship is a merit-based award for educators of all disciplines who value the importance of teaching respect and understanding through project-based learning,” according to a press release. The center selects exemplary teachers from the United States and around the world who will collaborate on projects that discover, develop, and communicate the stories of unsung heroes in history.

Allman became the principal of Rock Cave Elementary School this year, so he said he is one of first administrators to earn the fellowship. Each fellow will guide their students to study and produce a project that is displayed in the center based on an unsung hero of their choice.

“That person could be in your community, they could be in your state, it could be worldwide,” Allman said. “Students are tasked under the direction of the fellows who are selected, and they work on projects throughout the year. The whole concept behind it is to locate and do research on someone who is worthy of the spotlight that hasn’t really gotten it, and then to tell their story.”

The students do the work, while the fellow and other teachers facilitate their research.

“I will be working with some students in Rock Cave, and I’ll partner with my teachers in the building to make sure that that happens,” Allman said. “It’s going to be a little bit different for me as an administrator, because I had been selected when I was still a teacher. I’m one of the first administrators who has ever had the opportunity to do this, so I’m excited to figure out a way that I can support my teachers and my students to produce a quality project that shines a spotlight on someone important, someone who hasn’t received that sort of recognition and meets the true definition of an unsung hero.”

Students will research the person and then produce a website, a documentary or a play, which will be submitted and evaluated by the Lowell Milken Center. Each project submitted by a fellow is judged, and there is an award for the best project, which is then displayed at the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes.

“The Milken Family Foundation has definitely changed the trajectory of my career,” Allman said. “It’s providing me with opportunities on a state and national level to really showcase the importance of my students, but it also gives me the opportunity to give back to a field that means so much to me, which is education, because I just truly believe education opens doors to everyone.

“That starts right here in our local neighborhoods, like Rock Cave. I’m excited to use these connections to really aid my students and push them to produce the best possible work that they can, in the hopes it is helping to prepare them for future projects.”

Allman will encourage his students to carefully plan out their first project as they select an unsung hero.

“It’s going to be interesting to see the types of people they suggest,” he said. “I don’t really have anyone specific off the top of my head either, but I’m sure as we do this, I’ll be able to come up with examples and show them people that have been showcased in the past.”

However, the final decision will come down to the students.

“I really want it to be about the students,” Allman said. “I want them to be able to find somebody worthy of that recognition, turn the spotlight on them, do a project and then have me there as the facilitator to help them every step of the way. That’s what I’m excited to do.”

Allman hopes the projects will teach local students that heroes come from a variety of backgrounds.

“I want them to realize that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you have the ability to make a difference,” he said. “All of these people who they are going to be researching and studying at some point were just like them. I want them to realize that regardless of where they may be from, even if it is a small community like Rock Cave, they have the ability to make a huge difference, not only on a local level, but a state level and national level — a global level — and there’s nothing holding them back.”

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