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Math multiplier effect: Brooke Powers earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Kentucky teacher powers exponential learning growth at Beaumont Middle School  

January 09, 2018

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Pop Quiz: When is 1 equal to 1.5 or 2? When Brooke Powers is your math teacher, because her students at Lexington, Kentucky's Beaumont Middle School show 1.5 to 2 years growth in math progress per year. Powers is a motivational mastermind, amping up student interest though math games, using in-class technology like cell phones and tablets, and exploiting pop culture tie-ins such as using Cheetos to demonstrate the algebraic concept of surface area.

But this morning Powers was the one experiencing exponential growth—in her bank account! That's because she got the surprise of a lifetime at a school assembly where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by State Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt and Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Administrator Greg Gallagher. An elated Powers was named a 2017-18 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Award winner from Kentucky this year, and is among the 44 honorees for 2017-18.

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 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."

Creative lesson plans and hands-on teaching are hallmarks of Powers' classroom practices, which elevate the performance of students at all levels of achievement by promoting critical thinking and problem solving. She goes above and beyond to inspire the students creatively in class and by engaging families with after school events like her popular "Math Nights." As head of the school's math department and a published author in journals such as Kentucky Teacher and Educators for High Standards, Powers is a force to be reckoned by boosting the advancement of her students and her school.

"Brooke helps her students find the joy in math and their place in the world by giving them the tools they need to solve problems in life, and not just math problems," said Greg Gallagher. "Tapping into the power of analytical thinking and new technology, while also maintaining a personal touch that cherishes each student as an individual, is part of what powers Brooke's ability to help students see their futures right before their eyes. We proudly welcome her as a Milken Educator Award winner."

"This award brings attention to our most valuable educational resource – our hardworking, dedicated teachers," said Pruitt. "This work is not always easy. There are challenges every day. But our Kentucky teachers meet and rise to those challenges and work tirelessly to ensure all students meet high expectations and acquire the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in life."

"Brooke Powers creates an atmosphere in her classroom where all students feel empowered to be successful with math," said Superintendent Emmanuel "Manny" Caulk. "She sets high expectations and is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure every Beaumont Middle student achieves and is valued."

About Milken Educator Brooke Powers
A seventh-grade math teacher at Beaumont Middle School in Lexington, Kentucky, Brooke Powers knows how to motivate her students to learn. The math department chair and district liaison seeks out creative and cutting-edge teaching techniques, holding "Find the Flub Days" to work on identifying and correcting mistakes and distributing "Take-Home Tool Kits" that include paper algebra tiles and rulers. Students pay close attention when Powers uses Cheetos to demonstrate the concept of surface area. Lessons include iPads, a Smart Board and cell phones, which students use to respond to Powers' questions and solve math problems. The "Math Night" event Powers created and implemented has become a favorite with Beaumont families.

Powers has a reputation for being able to move any student at any level forward. But math skills are only one piece of her puzzle: She wants her students to learn to communicate, think critically and excel at problem-solving. Powers' students average 1.5 years of growth on MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessments, with struggling learners showing two years' growth. On the 2015 K-PREP state assessments, 75% of her students reached Proficient or Distinguished levels.

Powers writes a math education blog and participates in multiple online math education groups. She has presented within Kentucky and nationwide at conferences, including for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, on topics including instructional practices, motivating struggling learners, and standards-based grading. Brooke Powers has also written numerous articles for publications like Kentucky Teacher and Educators for High Standards. A gifted mentor, she is the facilitator for the Fayette County New Teacher Induction Program and has prepared numerous new educators in several districts for successful careers.

Powers earned a bachelor's in 2005 in agricultural communication, education and leadership from the University of Kentucky and a master's in teacher leadership from Eastern Kentucky University in 2013.

More information about Brooke Powers, 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, Powers' 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 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 learning 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 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 very 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.

Jana Rausch
Communications Director
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