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The 2015-16 Alabama Milken Educator Award Goes to… Dr. Melody Tucker of Mobile County Public Schools!
January 19, 2016
SANTA MONICA, CA — Students and staff at Citronelle High School in Mobile County Public Schools gathered for what was planned as an assembly highlighting their test scores. Little did they know that the purpose was to also surprise science teacher Dr. Melody Tucker with a prestigious Milken Educator Award and $25,000 cash prize.
Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley, joined by Alabama State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice, made the special announcement before cheering students, respected colleagues, distinguished officials and the media.
Tucker is among up to only 40 educators who will receive the prestigious national honor during the Milken Family Foundation’s (MFF) coast-to-coast tour across the country. MFF has been rewarding outstanding elementary and secondary educators with the Award since 1987.
“Melody Tucker is a STEM leader who instills in her students an appreciation for the sciences and inspires them to excel long after they have left her class,” said Foley. “Colleagues from the school, district and beyond have also drawn on her expertise, broadening Melody’s impact. We are pleased to honor her work with a Milken Educator Award and look forward to following her contributions to education for years to come.”
“This tremendous honor is greatly deserved by Dr. Tucker,” said Bice. “Her devotion to students matched with her innovative teaching methods creates a great combination ensuring success from her students. We are grateful to have her as an Alabama educator.”
“It is exciting to have the work of an outstanding science teacher recognized,” said Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Martha Peek. “Dr. Melody Tucker is a leading teacher who inspires and motivates students to be engaged learners in the classes she teaches. She is most deserving of this national award.”
Possessing a blend of high enthusiasm and creative instruction, Tucker is indispensable to Citronelle High School, teaching everything from regular, Honors and AP Biology, to Honors Anatomy and Physiology.
Creating a college atmosphere in the classroom, Tucker uses innovative, project-based instructional techniques to engage her students and yield results. One of her memorable tasks involved asking them to create a 3-D replica of a cell, which they presented to their peers, and were then made to defend. Another assignment was completing an interactive biology notebook of different strategies that Tucker had created.
Tucker’s use of real-world examples, technology and labs has led her students to maintain a 93% passing rate at this high-poverty school. Tucker’s classroom presence is commanding, and she paces herself to work with all, including honors, regular and special needs students. To complement her classroom practices, she works with online programs such as Moodle, GradPoint and ACCESS to help students stay on track with assignments.
Tucker chairs the science department and serves on the school leadership team and the Southern Regional Education Board leadership team. She is a trained Alabama New Teacher Mentor, a participant in the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI), and coordinates a summer program for at-risk and rural students. Tucker has written the science curriculum for the district and helps introduce teachers to new technologies. With the help of a local university professor, she has developed a student-focused assistant program to implement in schools. A National Honor Society sponsor, she is heavily involved with school, district and state educational initiatives.
But most saliently, Tucker’s students are emboldened by her, while her former students return from college regularly to ask for her help and advice. One in particular who had had a learning disability is now in college with an A average, and credits Tucker with helping and empowering her to excel.
Tucker received her Bachelor of Science in biology with a teaching certification and minor in music from the University of Mobile in 2005. She performed her graduate work in instructional design at the University of South Alabama, where she earned a Master of Education in 2008 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 2013.
More information about Tucker, plus photos and a video from today’s assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/melody-tucker.
The Milken Educator Awards program has been described as “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher magazine. Recipients are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.
Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Milken Awards are sourced through each participating state department of education, which appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to confidentially review candidates for recommendation to MFF.
This year, MFF launched a #MyTeacherRocks Instagram campaign that encourages students to take selfies with their favorite teacher and describe in the caption why their teacher is special. To enter the contest, entrants are asked to follow @MilkenFamilyFdn on Instagram, post their selfie to their individual account and use the #MyTeacherRocks and #MilkenAward hashtags. Two photos with the most “likes” will be selected in February and April 2016. The first of the three winners was selected in November 2015.
To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.
The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, were launched in 1987. 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.