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Math Success Multiplies Student Opportunities, Adds Up to a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Teacher Kristen Musgrove

Florida educator raises test scores and sixth-graders' spirits at Hilliard Middle-Senior High

February 05, 2020

SANTA MONICA, Calif., – Less is more in Kristen Musgrove's sixth-grade math classes, where small-group instruction has led to big gains in test scores and an increased student appetite for mathematics. Inspiring her students at Hilliard Middle-Senior High in Nassau County, Florida with an energetic teaching style and engaging manner, Musgrove challenges her learners to open their minds to creative problem solving through deductive reasoning and project-based learning. It's working: Musgrove's classes are leading the school district with 97 percent of her students demonstrating math proficiency. 

Yet it was Musgrove who was enjoying an exponential uplift in her education trajectory this morning at a surprise school assembly where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. Musgrove 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 Florida this year, and is among 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."

Musgrove is helping bring that brighter future to her students during the school day and beyond by offering tutoring at a weekly after-school math camp. A giving educator whose skills extend beyond the classroom, Musgrove is a mentor for new teachers, an advocate for professional staff development and a school district curriculum leader. She's doing whatever it takes to boost mathematics education by collaborating with her colleagues and challenging her students via innovative lessons and methods. 

"Kristen Musgrove knows that math is the ticket to the future in so many fields, and she's helping all of her students to get on board," said Gallagher. "Even in non-technical situations, sound logic, a rigorous approach and creative mathematical thinking translate into successful problem solving. Musgrove's energy, empathy and ingenuity make her a great teacher—and an inspirational colleague. We're proud to welcome her as a Milken Educator."

"Congratulations to Kristen Musgrove on receiving this prestigious award from the Milken Family Foundation," said Corcoran. "High-quality educators are critical to student success and it is clear that Ms. Musgrove works hard every day to ensure her students reach their full potential." 

"Kristen Musgrove is an inspiring, dedicated teacher whose love for teaching and learning shine through every day in her classroom, said Dr. Kathy Burns, Superintendent for Nassau County School District.  "We're excited to celebrate with her as she is recognized as a Milken Educator Award winner." 

About Milken Educator Kristen Musgrove

Kristen Musgrove goes to great lengths to make sure students at Florida's Hilliard Middle-Senior High School excel in mathematics. The sixth-grade team leader, Musgrove led the school's shift toward small group instruction, emphasizing activities that students find rigorous but fun. Her math lessons incorporate deductive reasoning, strategically infused problem-solving, project-based learning and Kagan structures, with formative assessments daily, weekly and monthly to monitor student progress. When Musgrove must miss class, she pre-records lessons to make sure learning continues. To entice students to attend after-school tutoring, Musgrove worked with administration to create weekly invitation-only "math camp" sessions with math games and snacks. Attendance increased, students raved about the experience, and those who needed extra help thrived. Her methods work: In 2018 her students led the district, with 97% of her sixth-graders demonstrating proficiency and 94% showing learning gains. 

Energetic and always in command of her classroom, Musgrove is committed to refining her own practice and pedagogy as well as helping colleagues. She is the go-to mentor for new math teachers on campus and often models lessons for both new and veteran teachers through instructional rounds. Musgrove leads professional development for the district's math teachers and serves as a key leader in implementing systemic curriculum mapping for secondary mathematics for the school and district. Through collaborative planning, coaching and encouragement, Musgrove supports her fellow math teachers as they work together to provide effective instruction. When the math department ended up short an instructor mid-year, Musgrove expanded her small group model and helped modify the department's instructional delivery to make sure student achievement wasn't affected. 

Musgrove's personal connections with students and families give her important insight into students' needs. When one of her students was assigned to an alternative learning environment, she stuck a laptop on her desk and kept the student "in class" via Google Hangouts. Musgrove holds students accountable firmly but lovingly, with high expectations they strive to meet and exceed. 

Musgrove earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 2006 from the University of North Florida. 

More information about Musgrove, 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. 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 2,800 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,, and

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

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, created by Lowell Milken, 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.

Lynne Russo 
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