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Bellflower Kindergarten Teacher Katherine Shaw First in District to Earn $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Professional development pro helps Washington Elementary students and teachers succeed

March 03, 2017

Santa Monica, Calif., — Washington Elementary staff and students gathered for an assembly today, led by State Superintendent Tom Torkakson, to celebrate their recognition as a California Gold Ribbon School. Little did they know that one of their teachers would strike gold of another kind. Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken turned the event on its head and the crowd to its feet when he presented kindergarten teacher Katherine Shaw with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award. Shaw can use the cash prize any way she wishes.

Shaw is among up to 35 Milken Educator Award honorees nationwide and the first-ever recipient in the Bellflower Unified School District.

This season marks the Milken Educator Awards' 30th year changing the lives of outstanding educators. The initiative has been hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching" by Teacher Magazine.

"Instilling academic learning, structure and positive behaviors early can set students up for success in school and life," said Lowell Milken. "As a lifelong learner, Katherine Shaw practices the very values that she teaches, impacting the educational experiences of her students and fellow faculty daily. As former students—who return to visit her—can attest, Katherine has left an indelible mark on their lives."

Shaw holds Washington Elementary's youngest students to the highest standards. She has also taught second and sixth grades as well as served as an instructional coach at the high-poverty, largely Hispanic school. Throughout her tenure, she has worked wonders differentiating instruction to meet students where they are, closing academic gaps and guiding them to mastery.

"Katherine is a fantastic teacher at a wonderful school with terrific students, and I'm honored to be part of this event," said Torlakson. "I started my public service career as a teacher and a coach, and I know a great educator when I meet one. Congratulations to Katherine and all the other Milken award winners, who serve as excellent role models for teachers all across the nation."

Shaw's own experience as an English Language Learner heightens her focus on the needs of her students. Her classroom is a hub of nonstop activity with Shaw using a variety of techniques to engage her students and make content come to life. Appealing to a visual audience, she is animated in her instruction and sets up multiple centers in the classroom where children engage in small group activities. The classroom itself is warm and inviting, and Shaw gives constant praise to her students to reinforce good work habits.

"Katherine Shaw is dedicated and compassionate about ensuring her students have every opportunity to shine," added Bellflower Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Brian Jacobs, who participated in the celebration. "She sparks a joy of learning in her students, leading them to new heights of excellence, and motivates her peers to create similar learning experiences in their classrooms."

With Shaw's unwavering support, her students thrive. On the Basic Phonics Skills Tests (BPST), virtually all of Shaw's students show mastery at or above grade level in phonemes and phonics. She maintains students' interest in reading by creating a "print-rich" environment in her classroom.

Her passion for education transcends the classroom walls as well. Shaw regularly researches best practices to share within her school and district. She provides district-level professional development for Thinking Maps, Path to Proficiency, Common Core Standards implementation, Direct Interactive Instruction, Positive Behavior Systems, and more.

She mentors Washington Elementary teachers at all grade levels and, as a Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program mentor, works closely with first-year teachers to help them adjust and overcome challenges.

Shaw brings parents into the school community by forging relationships, welcoming them into her classroom, and sharing instructional strategies so they can reinforce concepts with their children at home. Former students visit to thank Shaw for believing in them; some are even pursuing careers in education because of what they learned in her class.

Shaw earned a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from California State University, Long Beach, in 2000 and a Master of Arts in teaching with a specialization in reading from National University in 2007.

More information about Shaw, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. Besides the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Shaw's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top principals, teachers and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2016-17 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum, March 23-25, 2017, in New Orleans. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about the importance of maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at,,, and

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

Press Contact:

Jana Rausch
Communications Director
310-570-4774 Office 310-435-9259 Cell