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Iowa's 2017-18 Milken Educator Award goes to … Joni Readout!

Master Teacher is first Milken Educator in Central Decatur CSD, receives $25,000 cash

November 29, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Joni Readout, a master teacher and planner at Central Decatur Junior-Senior High School, was completely caught off guard when she heard her name called as Iowa's Milken Educator for the 2017-18 season. Readout is the first in the district to receive the prestigious honor, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize to use however she chooses.

Iowa Department of Education Director Dr. Ryan Wise and Central Decatur Community School District Superintendent Chris Coffelt joined the Milken Family Foundation in presenting the Award to Readout in a gymnasium packed with her peers, students, dignitaries and media.

Today's event is part of the Milken Family Foundation's major coast-to-coast tour surprising top educators at all-school assemblies with unrestricted $25,000 Awards. Dr. Gary Stark, CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching and a 2001 Arkansas Milken Educator, bestowed the recognition upon Readout. She is among 44 Milken honorees for 2017-18.

"Teacher leaders play a crucial role in K-12 education today," said Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. "As a master teacher, Joni Readout helps drive instruction in the school, working hand-in-hand with Secondary Principal Rudy Evertsen and the leadership team. Through intense planning, daily professional learning and a laser-focus on school goals, Joni works tirelessly with fellow faculty to refine classroom practices and raise student achievement growth. These skills, enhanced by her professionalism, care and compassion, make her worthy of the Milken Educator Award. I look forward to the knowledge and experiences she will bring to our national network of educators."

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching," has been opening minds and shaping futures for 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 also 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."

"Iowa has made a significant investment in teachers through the state's teacher leadership system, which is about strengthening instruction and offering new career pathways," said Wise. "It's exciting to see a master teacher receive national recognition in one of the first school districts to implement a plan through Iowa's teacher leadership system. Joni Readout and the Central Decatur Community School District are making a difference for the community and for Iowa."

About Milken Educator Joni Readout
TAP Master Teacher Joni Readout is keenly focused on improving both instructional practices and student achievement at Central Decatur Junior-Senior High School. As part of the school's implementation of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, Readout plans and leads "clusters": weekly professional learning meetings in which she shares effective teaching strategies she has researched and field-tested in the classroom, across multiple subjects. By studying the results of Readout's field tests, teachers learn what worked with students (and what didn't) before using the strategies in their own classes. Readout also worked with math teachers to study, develop and launch standards-based grading practices, an approach she is now introducing for other content areas. She is a fixture in the classrooms despite the fact that she doesn’t have her own, jumping in to do whatever is needed: observing, modeling, team-teaching, pulling small groups or working with individual students.

Supported and managed by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, the TAP System is a comprehensive educator effectiveness model that provides opportunities for career advancement, professional growth, educator evaluation and performance-based compensation for educators; Central Decatur CSD adopted it in 2012. Readout was a mentor teacher at the elementary school before moving to Central Decatur Junior-Senior High, where she now serves as a master teacher. The small, rural school has shown consistent growth in student achievement.

Readout's leadership role has extended beyond school walls. She is a member of the district's TAP Advisory Board and takes a lead role when other Iowa districts send teams to the Junior-Senior High School to learn from the district's experiences implementing the initiative. Central Decatur CSD was a model for the Iowa Teacher Leadership and Compensation System (TLC).

Readout has spoken about teacher leadership to the School Administrators of Iowa and has presented about effective teacher evaluation strategies at district leadership meetings, helping teachers reframe classroom observations as opportunities for growth and reflection that support student learning. She is committed to continuous learning, seeking out strategies that will help her staff and students succeed and routinely participating in professional learning at the local, state and national levels. Readout is a certified Google educator, a leader on the district's technology committee, and has presented at the Iowa 1:1 conference and 21st Century Learner's Conference about educational technology.

An adjunct at Graceland University, Readout teaches an introductory education class to high school juniors and seniors, setting up students to join the ranks of the next generation of educators. The school's former volleyball coach, Readout attends numerous sporting events and school functions. She encourages both students and teachers to reflect on their actions, learn from their mistakes, challenge themselves and never stop trying.

Readout is a graduate of Iowa State University, earning a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 2009 and a master's in curriculum and instructional technology in 2015.

More information about Readout, 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, Readout's 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, 2017-18 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 20-23, 2018. 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 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 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.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children's education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded 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. 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.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 30 years ago 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.