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Dual Language Student Success Translates Into a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Teacher Susan Moreno

Dallas teacher makes learning twice as nice for Spanish and English speakers at J.L. Long Middle School

November 14, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif., —  Doubling down on dual language learning is a smart bet for students in Susan Moreno's classroom at J.L. Long Middle School in Dallas, TX, where Spanish and English are used interchangeably. Dual language students under Moreno's tutelage gain an advantage, outperforming their general education peers on state assessments. A master teacher who constantly challenges students to exceed expectations, Moreno develops student teamwork in project-based learning activities that promote bilingual excellence. She creates an inclusive and welcoming classroom environment where Hispanic culture and language arts shine alongside English. But Moreno's students aren't the only ones who benefit from her energetic brand of bilingual education. Moreno mentors and encourages other dual language classroom teachers in her school, using the curriculum she helped develop for the Dallas Independent School District. 

Yet Moreno was momentarily speechless in two languages this morning at a surprise school assembly where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath. An elated Moreno was named a 2019-20 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Texas this year, and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20. 

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated." 

Moreno is making sure that more students from diverse backgrounds are part of that brighter future. Combining personal commitment, community outreach and staff development, Moreno's multitrack approach to dual language education benefits students and colleagues alike. By keeping students, staff and family stakeholders all involved and engaged, Moreno ensures the best chance of success for one and all. 

"Susan Moreno understands the value of being bilingual and multicultural in an interconnected world," said Foley. "What's more, the gift of language is a precursor to all higher learning. In any language, we are proud to welcome her to the National Milken Educator Network." 

"On behalf of the Texas Education Agency and educators across the state, it is an honor for me to congratulate Susan Moreno on being named a 2019 recipient of the prestigious Milken Award," said Morath. "Each year, the Milken Award shines a light on dedicated teachers who show their students how to fall in love with learning, all the while helping to make them more engaged citizens who want to improve the world around them. We are grateful to Ms. Moreno for her invaluable contributions. She is to be commended for all that she’s doing to educate the next generation of Texans." 

"The district's teachers and students are incredibly proud of the accomplishments of this outstanding educator," said Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. "Susan Moreno exemplifies the grit and devotion to students demonstrated by all great teachers and is most deserving of this award. Kudos to Ms. Moreno for her countless contributions to J.L. Long students and families and to the Milken Family Foundation for its ongoing recognition of extraordinary educators." 

About Milken Educator Susan Moreno

In Susan Moreno's dual-language classroom at J.L. Long Middle School in Dallas, seventh and eighth graders visit Hispanic countries through music, poetry and cuisine without ever leaving Texas. Students build model houses, describing in Spanish each room, what people do in each space, and which room is their favorite. Working in teams, students write short stories, perform original skits and produce videos. Moreno's lessons touch on global issues like immigration from Central America—a relevant topic for many students whose families came to the U.S. along the same path. The founder and leader of Long's secondary dual language (DL) program, Moreno is considered a master teacher who finds innovative ways to reach her students. She works with counselors and administrators to make sure her students are succeeding, take part in campus life and have equitable access to pre-AP and AP classes. To build the program's pipeline, Moreno actively recruits students from the district's elementary schools, encouraging them to maintain their Spanish language as they move through middle and high school. 

In addition to working directly with students, Moreno supports other secondary DL teachers, helping them implement the program correctly and leading professional development. She mentors new teachers, writes DL curriculum for the district, created and chairs Long's dual language committee, and is a strong advocate for the Teacher Excellence Initiative. Moreno works tirelessly to integrate both district and state content expectations into engaging, relevant DL lessons. Her "whatever it takes" mentality inspires colleagues and pushes students, who outperform their general education peers on state assessments. 

Students know Moreno cares about them and is committed to their success in middle school and beyond. When they are having a hard day, she asks how she can help. Moreno meets with parents to keep them informed about their children's progress and shares DL news on a dedicated Facebook page for the program. At the end of eighth grade, Moreno organizes a special moving-up ceremony with students, parents, administrators and district personnel, complete with a moving slide show. Students leave Long, but they never leave Moreno: She often attends meetings at the high school for her former DL students to make sure they are on track. 

Moreno earned a bachelor's degree in 2014 from the University of Arkansas. 

More information about Moreno, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at https://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/Susan-Moreno

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

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2019-20 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, 2020 where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, the Milken Educator Awards' "Why Not Us" program will pair each 2019-20 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. 

More than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, 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.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.

The cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways; for instance, on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even on the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Everyone is encouraged to watch the tour at www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards, www.twitter.com/milken, www.youtube.com/milkenaward and www.instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.

For more information, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards

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. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

Lynne Russo 
(818) 903-6079 cell; 
lynneerusso@gmail.com


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