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Evansville Third-Grade Teacher Traci Druschke Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Leadership and high expectations are hallmarks of Druschke's instruction at Oak Hill ES

February 16, 2017

Santa Monica, Calif., — During an all-school assembly celebrating student character and leadership growth, Traci Druschke had no idea that her own qualities would be honored with a Milken Educator Award and $25,000 cash prize.

Indiana's new Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jennifer McCormick joined Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Administrator Greg Gallagher and Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) Superintendent Dr. David B. Smith to present the Award to Druschke, a third-grade teacher at Oak Hill Elementary School. She is known for promoting rigor in the classroom and helping to take professional learning communities to new heights.

Druschke is among up to only 35 Milken Educator Award honorees nationwide and the first recipient in EVSC since 1998.

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.

"Traci Druschke creates clear goals, analyzes data, assesses progress and reflects on her teaching. These practices propel her students to reach high and provide fellow teachers with a model to follow," said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 recipient from Indiana. "I look forward to Traci's contributions to our Milken Educator Network and to the profession as a whole."

Traci Druschke's classroom is a hive of activity where students know their teacher expects 100% participation. Druschke moderates constant interaction and conversation among students. She embodies Whole Brain Teaching, an instructional system that helps students take ownership of their learning. Druschke teaches students how to structure productive questions and uses mnemonics and other memory models to help them absorb material. Students self-monitor their learning in "leadership notebooks," instruct each other in small "reciprocal teaching" groups, and lead morning meetings. Druschke holds high expectations, and her students rise to meet them. 

"Recognizing and retaining high-quality teachers is pivotal to the success of Indiana students," said McCormick. "As an educator, Traci Druschke has dedicated her professional career to ensuring her students are academically prepared and achieve at the highest level, and I consider it my privilege and distinct honor to present Traci with the Milken Educator Award."

Known as an expert in collecting data and using it to drive student growth, Druschke regularly assesses her students to make sure they have mastered the standards; if not, she works with them in small groups until they succeed. She helps each student set and conquer individualized learning goals. The school's third-graders perform above state averages in both math and English Language Arts; on the 2016 Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination (IREAD) assessments, virtually all of Druschke's students scored above-average proficiency.

Druschke serves on Oak Hill's leadership team and helps guide the third-grade Professional Learning Community (PLC). She also develops and implements schoolwide professional development and mentors new teachers. Druschke has invited teachers and administrators from the school, the district and beyond to observe her instructional practices; her classroom is described as an "invigorating environment," rich with positive energy.

"This is an incredible honor for Traci, the Oak Hill School community and the entire Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation," said Smith. "We are grateful to the Milken Family Foundation for recognizing and honoring outstanding educators like Traci for their hard work and dedication to their students and families."

Before joining the Oak Hill team in 2014, Druschke taught for seven years at a high-poverty school in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC). While there, she was chosen for the EVSC Learning Leadership Cadre, a select program designed to bring new, innovative teaching strategies to district schools. Druschke researched novel instructional techniques, participated in special professional development, and spent a week at Brown University collaborating with peers. She presented the results of her research, "Closing the Gender Gap Through Literacy," at the Indiana Computer Educators Conference and led professional development on the topic for the district.

Druschke earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education in 2003 and a minor in English as a Second Language (ESL) in 2006 from the University of Southern Indiana. She received a Master of Education in 2009 from Indiana Wesleyan University.

More information about Druschke, 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, Druschke'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
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