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Beloved Silver Spring Elementary Teacher Surprised with National Teaching Award
Educator becomes nation's latest Milken Educator Award recipient and winner of $25,000
January 10, 2023
Silver Spring, M.D. — Tenacious, life-changing and strong leader are just some of the outstanding qualities used to describe this Silver Spring elementary school teacher and the latest Milken Educator Award recipient: Dion Jones. Jones was surprised with the national honor at a vibrant schoolwide assembly today. Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury presented Jones with the prestigious recognition and the unrestricted cash prize to be used however he likes.
Jones, a third grade teacher at Fairland Elementary School in the Montgomery County Public School District, is among up to 40 elementary educators across the nation who will receive the Milken Educator Award during the 2022-2023 school year. On top of today's celebration, he will have the opportunity to join the national Milken Educator Network of more than 2,900 exceptional K-12 educators and leaders across the country. Honorees receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles this April.
"Dion Jones' impact has a ripple effect across his students, their parents, his colleagues and his community," said Dr. Foley, who is herself a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. "In his young career, he has already demonstrated himself as a leader, a teacher of excellence and a mentor to students and staff alike. For this, we are honored to present him with the Milken Educator Award today!"
The Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year’s winners’ list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced.
"Today we celebrate the work of Dion Jones whose outstanding commitment, passion and creativity capture the skill and art of exceptional teaching, which inspires learning, accelerates academic achievement and grows social and emotional well-being. Earning the prestigious national Milken Award, Mr. Jones has been recognized for setting the standard for student engagement throughout Maryland and across the country," said State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury. "By thoroughly understanding the needs of his students and tailoring lessons to each scholar's personal interests with enthusiasm and empathy, Mr. Jones has catapulted his students to success and enabled them to reach their highest potential. The State of Maryland congratulates Fairland Elementary School, Montgomery County Schools and Mr. Jones for their steadfast dedication to Maryland students."
Since the initiative's inception in 1987, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers.
More About Dion Jones
Students Shine in His Classroom: In Jones' classroom, students are "scholars," a moniker they live up to every day. He keeps students engaged by tailoring lessons, tasks and activities to their personal interests. Students work together to write a class newspaper featuring stories about each child. For a cross-content lesson on sound, Jones brings in a record player and some LPs. As they listen to the music, students discuss the records' size and materials, chronicle changes in audio technology, and later interview family members and other teachers about their own experiences with record players. Jones' students often assume the teaching role, developing leadership skills, confidence and ownership of learning. Each day starts with mindful minutes that allow students to breathe and share whatever is on their mind before they begin work. Together, the class recites an affirmation about being persistent learners who are willing to take risks. Thanks to Jones' focus on both academics and social-emotional learning, his students' performance shines. In 2021-22, they delivered 79.7% of the district’s projected growth in reading, 84.4% in math.
Strong Teacher Leader: Jones is a leader at Fairland and sits on the instructional leadership and school improvement plan teams. He trains and supports student teachers and educators new to the school and district, and he welcomes peer observers into his classroom. Jones has presented to Fairland staff and helped lead the school’s efforts around equitable practices in teaching. When COVID-19 closed school buildings in 2020, Jones delivered materials to students and colleagues and taught fellow teachers how to use Canva, FlipGrid, Pear Deck, Clever and other technology for virtual instruction. Colleagues value Jones for his organization, tenacity, inclusiveness and generosity.
Committed to Students' Success: The relationships Jones builds with students and families are key to his success. Former students often stop to visit on their way to class, and Jones has shared his parent communication strategies with Fairland colleagues. He teaches summer school to get to know students before they arrive in his classroom and offers intense tutoring in math and literacy after school to help those whose learning has been interrupted by the pandemic. Jones' students know they are loved, they have what they need to succeed at the highest levels, they are learning skills that will help them in the classroom and beyond, and their teacher will never give up on them.
Education: Jones earned a bachelor's in elementary education in 2016 from Coppin State University and a master's in curriculum and instruction in 2020 from Grand Canyon University.
More About the Milken Educator Awards: "The future belongs to the educated."
Along with the financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,900 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 in Los Angeles this April, 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 (MFF) mentoring program, in which new 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.
- Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of 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 receive 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 MilkenEducatorAwards.org 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. Created by Lowell Milken, 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 Milken Family Foundation celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at MFF.org