Press Releases    All Press Releases


Kelly Ryan First in St. Tammany Parish Public School System to Receive $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Lowell Milken and State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley surprise Slidell teacher with the "Oscar of Teaching"

February 07, 2024

Santa Monica, Calif. — Northshore High School 11th and 12th grade science teacher Kelly Ryan is laser-focused on preparing students for bright futures – equipping them with hands-on labs, comprehensive test preparation and boundless resources and support. However, the Northshore alumna could have never prepared for today's surprise: a $25,000 Milken Educator Award, presented by Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken.

Ryan is the first-ever Milken Educator Award recipient in St. Tammany Parish Public School System history. Lowell Milken was joined by Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley to honor Ryan with the prestigious, national Award at an all-school assembly, surrounded by cheering students, colleagues, dignitaries and media.

"Kelly Ryan's commitment to academic rigor and growth inspires her students to rise to those same expectations," said Lowell Milken. "Students are motivated to maximize their potential by taking an active role in their learning. It is this kind of education that sparks creativity, curiosity and confidence – qualities that develop young people into productive members of our society."

In addition to her unrestricted $25,000 cash prize, Ryan joins the prestigious Milken Educator Network, a national group of exceptional professionals working to "Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate" the K-12 profession.

She is one of up to 75 recipients across the country in 2023-24 receiving the "Oscar of Teaching" as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. Ryan is the third 2023-24 Louisiana Milken Educator Award recipient, with Christine Bayard of Johnston-Hopkins Elementary School in the Iberia Parish School District and Derrick Winn of Crestworth Elementary School in the East Baton Rouge Public School System having received their Awards on Tuesday, February 6.

"Ms. Ryan epitomizes excellence in education through her dynamic approach to teaching science," said Dr. Brumley. "Her impact extends beyond the classroom, whether she’s leading college prep workshops or serving on her school's leadership team."

2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the Award.

More About Kelly Ryan

Stellar Science Strategy: At Northshore High School, Kelly Ryan immerses her 11th and 12th grade students in collaborative, scientific exploration in her environmental science and chemistry classes. A Northshore alumna herself, Ryan's shared experiences relate to her students. Her dedication to academic excellence shines through her meticulously structured, standards-based approach, emphasizing higher-order thinking skills. Ryan's goal is not just to impart knowledge, but also to equip students with analytical reasoning abilities that will serve them well throughout their lives. 

All-Around Academic Preparation: Driven by an unwavering passion for intellectual growth, Ryan's students embark on innovative, hands-on lab ventures like an "alien planet" activity with the periodic table of elements. Students use context clues from the elements discovered on this planet to systematically construct the periodic table of a fictitious planet. Ryan also teaches ACT preparation classes and serves on the district's ACT committee where she has developed and implemented highly effective strategies to drive and improve student performance. One inventive application is a digital ACT growth tracker for students to monitor scores and, along with their parents, assess progress and work toward growth goals. Ryan also implemented the school's much-anticipated "Warm-Up Walk" after researching that light exercise prior to a test could relieve anxiety and boost performance. Students arrive at school prior to the first bell and walk the track for a few minutes as they are energetically cheered on by teachers – receiving water, a granola bar and lively support and encouragement for the upcoming assessment. 

Leader and Mentor in the School and Community: Through a partnership with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), Northshore High, Ryan is an active member of Northshore's Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) that drives professional development and support on campus. She also serves as the sponsor of the National Honor Society, where she encourages students' community involvement during canned food drives for a local food bank, writing Santa letters to local elementary students and collecting donations for military personnel who are deployed overseas. She also sponsors the middle school robotics club, which has sparked an interest in robotics for students and parents alike. The club won first place in the robot game and the sportsmanship award at the World War II Museum Tournament, earned the second-place championship award at State, and qualified for Nationals. 

Education: Ryan is a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, earning a Bachelor and Master of biological sciences in 2009 and 2012, respectively. 

More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: "The Future Belongs to the Educated"

  • The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles this June, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.
  • Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children. 

Follow the Milken Educator Awards tour and use the #MEA3K and #MilkenAward hashtags on: Facebook (MilkenEducatorAwards) | X (Milken) | YouTube (MilkenAward) | Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn) | LinkedIn (MilkenFamilyFdn) | TikTok (MilkenAward).

Visit or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772 for more information.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Created by philanthropist and education visionary 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