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Nov 22, 2013

Three New Leaders Honored

“We know that during her lifetime, your teacher is going to positively impact thousands of young people’s lives for the better. So maybe, just maybe, you will become a teacher, too. I want you to think about that kind of impact that you can have in your life.” — Milken Family Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken

Dear Champions of Education,

This week the Milken Family Foundation traveled to South Dakota, Illinois and home to California to induct three new leaders into the Milken Educator Network. We were there to celebrate what these teachers are doing for their students and the teaching profession with a $25,000 surprise. As you all know by now, though, that financial prize is just a symbol of high expectations for the years of professional leadership to come.

Shana DavisOur first honoree this week, Shana Davis (SD ’13), practiced her leadership skills in the U.S. Army, receiving an award for her role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. We’re sure those skills have been tested and honed in her current role as English teacher in the alternative school program at T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre, SD, which she helped found to intervene with at-risk youth. Much like her honorable service in the military, Shana doesn’t teach for the glory. In fact, as she tells us in the video, up until she heard Governor Dennis Daugaard call her name, she was wondering which deserving teacher at the school this might all be about. And, much like her military accolade, this award is well deserved.

Melissa LeisnerMelissa Leisner (IL ’13) of Prairie Knolls Middle School in Elgin, IL is a leader known for her infectious love of reading—and we love reading the look on her face in this video when she hears her name. A constant learner with two master’s degrees, Melissa’s impact doesn’t end with the students; she even started a book club for fellow language arts teachers to read and discuss books that help them in their professional roles. The surprise assembly’s lesson to students on the value of a great teacher was presented once again by Dr. Jane Foley (IN ’94) and if this photo is any indication, the message hit the mark.

Jennifer SmithOn Wednesday, our third new Milken Educator, Jennifer Smith (CA ’13), was surprised with the $25,000 prize by Milken Family Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken. Jennifer is a passionate STEM teacher who is inspiring the science and technology leaders of tomorrow. She uses the flipped classroom approach to focus classroom time on her students, so we enjoyed “flipping” the attention back on her.  Jennifer got the full celebrity treatment—not just from the media in attendance, but from the students at Pioneer Middle School in Tustin, CA, as well! The assembly brought together a veritable Who’s Who of California public education.

Leadership is an essential quality of any great teacher. Inspiring and modeling excellence in those that follow them—whether students or colleagues—also leads them to be greater versions of themselves. We welcome these three fine leaders to the ranks of nearly 2,600 Milken Educators and look forward to following them to even greater heights in the future. For as Lowell Milken, an international leader in education reform, tells new Milken recipients, “We recognize your past success as the best indication of your future promise. Indeed, these Awards anticipate lifetime achievement and will broaden your sphere of influence in the profession.”

Boris Kievsky
Newsletter Editor
Manager, Online Communications and Engagement
Milken Family Foundation

In this newsletter:  Shana Davis (SD '13)Dr. Melissa Leisner (IL '13)Jennifer Smith (CA '13)
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