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Connecticut Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Ansonia High School's Laura Baker-Coronis connects math to the real world

Oprah Winfrey congratulates Milken Educators in heartwarming video message as 'light in this world'

March 31, 2022

ANSONIA, Conn., — In a schoolwide assembly this morning, one of Ansonia High School's ninth grade math teachers received the surprise of a lifetime, a $25,000 Milken Educator Award. Laura Baker-Coronis was recognized for her excellence in teaching and creating learning environments that foster discourse and teamwork while implementing real-world applications of mathematics. 

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Connecticut Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker surprised Baker-Coronis with the honor before cheering students, colleagues, state and local officials, and the media. Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz attended the ceremony and joined in congratulating the state's latest recipient. 

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," the Milken Educator Awards celebrate, elevate and activate the American teaching profession and inspire young, capable people to join it. The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award.

"Extraordinary educators engage their students through creativity and leadership, and Laura Baker-Coronis exemplifies this in her classroom each day," said Dr. Foley, who is herself a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. "Laura makes learning tangible and exciting while equipping her students with problem-solving and communication skills that will be essential throughout their lives. I am proud to celebrate Laura today and look forward to her contributions to the national Milken Educator Network." 

"Teaching is a noble profession; it takes great skill, ability, and perseverance. I am delighted that one of Connecticut's educators is receiving this prestigious recognition," said Commissioner Russell-Tucker. "The Milken Educator Award brings much-deserved focus to our excellent educators in Connecticut. I congratulate Ms. Baker-Coronis on receiving this award and thank her for her dedication to the students of Ansonia and her innovative practices in the classroom." 

Oprah, a longtime education advocate, shared her congratulations to this year's winners in a video message thanking "the most incredible educators around the country" and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the "tireless work" they do. 

More About Laura Baker-Coronis 

Innovation: Every activity in Baker-Coronis' classes centers around student discourse, peer review and teamwork. With the use of real-world applications of math, she has a gift for creating engaging environments, like allowing her students to use algebra to design their dream cars, comparing cell phone plans based on data usage and figuring out which careers provide the most income. In the Cereal Box Challenge, a highlight of Baker-Coronis' geometry classes, students design boxes to hold quantified volumes with constraints like production costs, graphics and having to fit multiple boxes into specified shipping cartons. Through an emphasis on socialization, open communication and mutual respect, Baker-Coronis' students are determined to succeed—for themselves and for their teacher. 

Leadership: As a respected leader who challenges colleagues to think creatively to support students, Baker-Coronis assists others in analyzing data to identify students' areas of need and develops strategies to address them. As the freshman math team lead, she facilitates collaboration among teachers, has led professional development on vertical alignment from middle to high school and has worked on district committees for curriculum development and SRBI (Scientific Researched-Based Interventions). During the pandemic, Baker-Coronis trained colleagues in Google Classroom and helped revamp the curriculum to help students hit priority standards despite the challenges of remote instruction. 

Creativity: When the middle school lost a math teacher and students missed a lot of instruction, Baker-Coronis created and volunteered to teach extended geometry classes to make sure they caught up in ninth grade. She also created a "problem bank" with thousands of sample problems for all teachers to use in their instruction in an effort to raise Ansonia High School's SAT scores across the board. She helped create the Freshman Academy to help students transition to high school, has organized virtual award ceremonies and advises the Student Ambassador Club, where students raise money for local organizations, including an animal shelter and center for victims of domestic abuse. 

Education: Baker-Coronis earned a bachelor's in mathematics in 2011 and a master's in education in 2015 from Southern Connecticut State University.

More About the Milken Educator Awards: "The future belongs to the educated."

The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 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. 

Along with the $25,000 financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education. 

  • The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFFs) mentoring program, in which freshman Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice.
  • Over the years, more than $140 million in funding, including $70 million for the individual cash awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers. 
  • Veteran Milken Educators frequently go on to serve in leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 
  • "We find you. You don't find us!" Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation. 
  • The $25,000 cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.   

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward).

For more information, visit or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 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. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at

Press Contact:

Jana Rausch
Vice President, Communications
310-570-4774 Office 310-435-9259 Cell