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Idaho Falls School Leader Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Exceptional Innovation and Maximizing the Potential for All

Compass Academy Assistant Principal and Dean of Students Kelly Sheridan becomes first in district to be recognized with national honor

February 21, 2024

Idaho Falls, Idaho Compass Academy Assistant Principal and Dean of Students Kelly Sheridan thought she was attending an all-school assembly she helped to plan to welcome Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield. Instead Sheridan received a heartwarming surprise when she was presented with the Milken Educator Award and $25,000 that she can use however she chooses. Bestowed by the Milken Family Foundation, the Award honors exceptional educators for excellence and innovation in education. Sheridan is the first-ever recipient in the Idaho Falls School District.     

"Today, we celebrate the extraordinary commitment of Kelly Sheridan to Compass Academy's students, colleagues, and the community at large," said Stephanie Bishop, vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 2001 Virginia Milken Educator, who traveled to Compass to present Sheridan with the distinction. "Early in her career, Kelly's instructional leadership, collaborative spirit and eye on data have enriched and elevated the entire educational experience at Compass. Congratulations, Kelly, and welcome to our Milken Educator Network!"   

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," the Awards will honor up to 75 recipients across the country in 2023-24 as part of the Milken Family Foundation's Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. 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, empowering recipients to "Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate" the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career.    

"Kelly Sheridan is a perfect example of the incredible influence that accomplished leadership can have on students, teachers and the community," said Superintendent Critchfield. "Kelly forges a path for whole-school success at Compass Academy with her multi-pronged approach to administering state assessments. She combines a deep technical knowledge of the art of leading a school with the energy, creativity and adaptability needed to influence individual students. She is an inspiration both in and out of the classroom and I am so happy to honor her today."  

More About Kelly Sheridan  

A Visible, Data-Driven Leader: As assistant principal and dean of students at Compass Academy – a project-based 9-12 magnet school in Idaho Falls – Kelly Sheridan radiates positivity and a passion for helping students and colleagues alike reach their highest potential. The school’s former art teacher, Sheridan has made a dynamic impact on campus climate by infusing art into core curricula, serving as an instructional leader, and forming trusted relationships across the faculty. Her unique mix of classroom and leadership experience has served her well in her current role.

In her short years as a school leader, Sheridan never settles for complacency sitting in front of her computer. Instead she thrives in the hallways or in the classroom, greeting students, collaborating with colleagues or communicating with parents. Helping to lead Compass' instructional program, Sheridan has continued her involvement in the Guiding Coalition, a leadership team dedicated to designing and implementing professional development. A large consumer of data and research-based instructional strategies, Sheridan provides frameworks for teachers to align their instruction to meet state standards of excellence. 

Shaping Lasting Success: Sheridan's deep knowledge of state testing and credit recovery is a strong asset to her role as school coordinator for the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT assessments. She organizes the entire testing experience, from preparing students to providing a conductive testing environment for students to do their best work. Sheridan promptly reviews scores with her principal to determine improvements for the following year. Additionally, Sheridan's monitoring of student progress and engagement with families helped increase the school's graduation rate, which exceeds that of the district and state. 

Widespread Impact: Sheridan's impact extends beyond the classroom into the community where she plans engaging family outreach events and builds strategic partnerships, such as with local coffee shops, libraries and museums to display student work, as well as with the local zoo to produce an art exhibit for Earth Day and bring awareness to additional zoo conservation efforts. She is active in the Idaho Association of School Administrators (IASA), the district’s graduation committee, and the school safety committee as well as serves as Compass' summer school director. Her far-reaching leadership underscores her dedication to creating a culture of determination, ownership and growth among students and staff.  

Education: Sheridan earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art with a minor in art education in 2015 from James Madison University and a Master of Education in educational leadership from the University of Idaho in 2021.    

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 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