Mission music teacher surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Article Body


Mission, S.D.  — Todd County Middle School’s Albert “Bobber” Her Many Horses thought he was attending an assembly highlighting the state literacy initiative with a visit from South Dakota’s secretary of education. Instead, the music and Lakota language teacher received the surprise of a lifetime – a national Milken Educator Award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize for him to use however he chooses. Bestowed by the Milken Family Foundation, the Award presentation is part of a nationwide tour that honors exceptional educators for excellence and innovation in education. Her Many Horses is the only recipient from South Dakota this year.


Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley, joined by South Dakota Secretary of Education Dr. Joseph Graves, presented Her Many Horses with the Award in front of cheering students, colleagues, dignitaries and media.


“Albert Her Many Horses shares a perspective and personal experience with the young hearts and minds he is molding within the very community that shaped him,” said Dr. Foley, who is a 1994 Milken Educator from Indiana. “Albert’s unique insight and deep understanding of the needs of his students, school and community make him an excellent leader and mentor. He has an unwavering enthusiasm for the arts, contributes to all facets of education at Todd County Middle School, and nurtures relationships with students and families that they will remember for years to come. We welcome Albert to our national Milken Educator Network and look forward to the positive contributions he will bring.”


Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Awards will honor up to 75 recipients across the country in 2023-24 as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. 2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to “Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate” the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career. 


“Mr. Her Many Horses has all the hallmarks of what constitutes a first-rate teacher: He is an expert in his fields of music and the Lakota language, he is highly adaptable to new technologies and new situations, and he is an exceptional role model for his students and fellow teachers at Todd County Middle School,” said Secretary Graves. “His hard work will inspire his students throughout their lifetimes – his dedication to them ensures that.” 


“Congratulations to Bobber Her Many Horses on receiving the Milken Educator Award,” said U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, who also shared in today’s celebration. “Bobber is a leader in the community of Mission and has had a significant impact on the students at Todd County Middle School. He is not only a role model to his students, but for teachers across the state and country as well. This well-deserved award is a testament to Bobber’s hard work, both in and out of the classroom.”

More About Albert Her Many Horses 

High Expectations Lead to Positive Results: Her Many Horses stands out as a leader in his community, both inside and outside of his classroom at Todd County Middle School (TCMS), where he teaches band, chorus, general music and Lakota language classes. This hometown hero understands the challenges his students face to succeed because he faced them himself as a young man growing up in Mission. Despite the many barriers in front of TCMS youth, Her Many Horses maintains high expectations for his fine arts students. He motivates them to strive for their personal best while instilling self-confidence and responsibility within themselves, and he understands that cultivating talent requires imparting dedication and accountability while fostering mutual respect. His students’ musical and scholastic achievements are a testament to Her Many Horses’ steady, positive presence in their lives, making his classes highly attended and immensely popular.

Creative Approach to Technology in the Classroom: Consistently innovative and forward-thinking, Her Many Horses embraces the use of technology in his curriculum, becoming the first teacher in the school to integrate iPads in his music classes. During the pandemic, Her Many Horses was tasked with teaching music classes virtually due to school closures, and he successfully produced the winter and spring concerts in a virtual format via Zoom. To combat his students’ shyness over performing in that manner, he helped them create memojis to be applied as filters over their recorded videos, eliminating the visual impediment to their self-confidence and synching all individual videos to create a masterful musical performance.


A Hometown Hero Inspiring Meaningful Change: Her Many Horses sponsors an in-school wellness group focusing on student mentoring. It has become one of the most engaged and active groups in the school, with its members consistently ranking high in the schoolwide “Wildcat Challenges” based on attendance, grades and behavior. He also dedicates his time to tutoring math and science, volunteering for the wrestling program, assisting the high school pep band at games and teaching summer classes to education majors at Sinte Gleska University, an accredited tribal university on the Rosebud Sioux reservation. Her Many Horses’ leadership is far-reaching as he serves alongside Native American tribal members on the Lakota Language and Culture committee, advising the integration of Lakota language and culture within schools. In an effort to foster trust and build confidence among his students, their parents and the school leadership, Her Many Horses also serves on TCMS’ parental advisory board, facilitating a partnership between the school and community.


He actively supports South Dakota Destination Imagination, a nonprofit volunteer organization that inspires and equips students to become the next generation of innovators and leaders through competitive challenges assessed by a team of educators and industry experts from various fields. Her Many Horses’ personal connection to the organization and history as a participant himself goes beyond simple involvement to a deep commitment rooted in his own experience and desire to make a positive impact on the community in which he was raised.


Education: Her Many Horses earned a Bachelor of Arts in music education from Augustana University in 2011.


More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: “The Future Belongs to the Educated”  

  • The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in June 2024, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.  
  • Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs. 
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.  
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.    


Visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772 for more information.  


About the Milken Educator Awards 
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Created by Lowell Milken, the Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. The Milken Family Foundation celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at