When 5th grade Reading Specialist Lauren Hunter attended the assembly at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School this morning, she had no idea that she was the guest of honor and that she would be the one Maryland teacher who would ultimately walk away with a $25,000 cash award. Surprised before students, faculty, staff, and elected officials at the Harford County public school, she accepted the National Milken Award from the Milken Family Foundation and Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lillian M. Lowery. Mrs. Hunter, a Reading Specialist for eight years where her students continually show high levels of growth and advancement each year, is free to use the cash prize in any manner she chooses.
"It is wonderful that this accomplished Reading Specialist is one out of a select few across the nation to receive a 2012 Milken Educator Award for her outstanding dedication and commitment to education. Her ability to focus her instructional practices to meet the individual needs of each of her students proves she is a model of excellence for the profession," said Dr. Lowery. "I am also at awe by Lauren Hunter's accomplishments, particularly where she has been instrumental in developing a reward system to recognize positive and decrease negative behaviors of her students. Her fervent enthusiasm for teaching Maryland's students – from the development and implementation of initiatives that address overall student achievement to her willingness to mentor new teachers – are essential to the undeniable success of William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School students."
The Milken Educator Awards recognize the importance of outstanding educators and encourage talented young people to explore teaching. The Award provides public recognition and an unrestricted financial award of $25,000 to selected educators who are advancing public education. The Program began in Maryland in 1993, marking the 19th year. With this year's award winner, Maryland has a total of 57 Milken National Educators who have won $1,425,000.
"Mrs. Hunter represents the exceptional teachers delivering high-quality instruction at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School, and in Harford County as a whole, each and every day," said Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Robert M. Tomback. "Our teachers are passionate and dedicated and are raising the expectations and academic achievements for all of our students. Mrs. Hunter is very deserving of this extraordinary honor, and I am extremely proud of her accomplishments."
In her classroom, tables of four are strategically placed to allow for seamless differentiation. The array also reflects Mrs. Hunter's keen understanding of group dynamics as well as individual learning styles. She has also developed a behavioral reward system to reinforce positive behavior, which contributes to advances in academic performance and an atmosphere of trust and respect. Students are unafraid to ask questions, and their parents, too, are an integral part of the learning process.
"Mrs. Hunter brings passion and enthusiasm to teaching and learning each day. She continuously finds ways to engage her students and seeks to focus on building a strong relationship with them and their families for positive learning experiences," said Gail I. Dunlap, Principal of William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School. "The William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School community benefits daily from her thoughtful reflections and her goal to foster a love of learning in youth to positively affect future generations."
The 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.
"The visibility and reputation of the Milken Educator Awards result in unlimited opportunities for educators to powerfully impact education at local, state and national levels," said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator.
The 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 program has 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.
The Awards alternates 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.