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April 15, 2014
Portland Public Schools Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award
PORTLAND, OR — When cheers erupted this afternoon in the gymnasium of Robert Gray Middle School in Portland, Oregon, they were in honor of Teresa Chan Seidel, a sixth-grade math teacher, who was surprised with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award. Joining Milken Family Foundation Co-Founder Michael Milken for the surprise announcement were Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton and Portland Public Schools (PPS) Superintendent Carole Smith. One of education’s most prestigious recognitions, the Award comes with a no-strings-attached cash prize of $25,000.
“The idea behind these Awards is that everyone likes to hand out prizes to our heroes,” said Michael Milken. “We give Grammys to musicians, gold medals to Olympians, Nobel prizes to scientists and others. But we give too little recognition to the people with society’s most important job – educators. Nothing assures the success of a nation more than education; and nothing assures the quality of education more than dedicated classroom teachers instilling a love of learning and sense of wonder in their students.”
Sixth-grade math teacher Teresa Chan Seidel's challenging upbringing as the daughter of Asian immigrants inspired her commitment to closing the achievement gap for students of color with high expectations for all. Her class is a space where students of any nationality and culture feel empowered to learn. Through collaborative and specialized teaching techniques that play into students' academic and cultural strengths, Seidel has developed a nuanced approach to learning that draws from her personal experience and has earned her an outstanding reputation.
“I am honored to join with Mike Milken and Carole Smith in recognizing this outstanding young educator,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “Teresa is an educational leader with a strong commitment to equity, high standards for all students, and a passion for closing the academic achievement gap. She is the type of educator our state and nation needs as we work to improve education and provide all of our kids with a bright and promising future.”
The student demographics at Robert Gray Middle School are changing, and Seidel has been key to helping staff prepare to support a more racially and economically diverse student population. Seidel introduced staff to tools and resources such as her “5 Questions to Ask Your Students of Color” guide and her “Snapshots” questionnaire, a series of personal questions students answer on the first day of class to build bonds between their diverse backgrounds. Both are resources designed to help foster a welcoming school environment that honors diversity as a strength and gives both teachers and students tools to discuss issues such as race, culture, and identity. This deep personal connection with her students is why students willingly spend their lunches doing math homework in her classroom and nominate her as the teacher with the most "swag." It's also why her students receive prestigious awards like the Young, Gifted, and Black award.
Seidel's commitment to her students extends well beyond the classroom. She makes a point of connecting with her students’ families throughout the year so that both students and parents see her as an ally and a resource. Seidel also knows that some of her students come from homes that struggle to put food on the table, so she launched a food backpack program which provides nutritious food for those in need, supporting them so they can develop academically. Programs such as these are why Seidel was recruited to teach at Robert Gray Middle School, and why everyone from her principal to co-workers predict that Teresa Chan Seidel will remain committed to her mission of closing the achievement gap and supporting academic and personal success for each and every student in her school.
“It is rewarding to us as a school district when talented educators like Teresa Seidel are recognized for their outstanding teaching,” said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith. “I am pleased for Teresa and know that her hard work will have an impact on her students for years to come.”
This recognition is not intended as a lifetime achievement award. Recipients are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish in the future. Milken Educators point to their Award as a pivotal milestone. Encompassed in the recognition is the responsibility to stretch their professional practices and leadership to even higher levels.
Hailed by Teacher Magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” what separates this Award from others is that the recipients have no idea that they will be honored. Not only is the entire selection process confidential, but so is the real purpose of the school-wide assemblies where the Awards are presented. The Awards story doesn’t end with the surprise notification. New recipients are invited to join the Milken Educator Network, a group of distinguished educators whose expertise serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards, and others shaping the future of education.
The Milken Family Foundation has been recognizing and rewarding the noble profession of teaching through the Milken Educator Awards for 26 years. Since first presented to a dozen California teachers, the Awards have grown to become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program having honored more than 2,500 K-12 teachers, principals, and specialists with over $63 million in individual, unrestricted $25,000 awards. More than $135 million in funding has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout the recipients’ careers in education. The exponential impact of Milken Educators is helping to improve American K-12 education.
The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Each participating state department of education appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to review candidates that are sourced through a confidential selection process and recommend candidates to the Foundation.
Candidates for the Milken Educator Awards are selected on the basis of all the following criteria:
• Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school;
• Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession;
• Individuals whose contributions to education are largely unheralded yet worthy of the spotlight;
• Early- to mid-career educators who offer strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and
• Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues, and the community.
View the 2012-13 Milken Educator Awards YouTube video for a peek at the surprise of a lifetime that awaits up to 40 of America’s best educators: http://www.mff.org/newsroom/news.taf?page=videos&init=&dateYear=&vid=1200.
For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit http://www.mff.org or call the Foundation at (310) 570-4775. You can connect with the Foundation at www.twitter.com/milken, www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards and at www.youtube.com/milkenaward.
Photos and video will be available at: http://milkeneducatorawards.org/newsroom/media-kit/.
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