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On today's agenda: Lauren Hopkins receives Milken Educator Award and $25,000 cash prize

Her students envision themselves succeeding in her class as the Coventry High School teacher inspires reading, listening and learning

October 26, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — English/Language Arts teacher Lauren Hopkins begins each class with an agenda for the day, empowering students to know what they should expect to learn and engage upon, and what's expected of them. But today things didn't go quite as she planned. During an all-school assembly, visiting guest Dr. Jane Foley, Senior Vice President of the Milken Educator Awards, surprised Hopkins with a special bonus and public recognition for her excellence in education.

Hopkins is among up to 45 honorees who will receive a 2017-18 Milken Educator Award and unrestricted $25,000 cash prize, and is the only Award winner from Rhode Island this year.

Rhode Island's Commissioner of Education Dr. Ken Wagner and Coventry Public Schools Superintendent Craig Lewis praised the more than 1,600 Oakers in attendance before introducing Foley and her well-kept secret announcement.  

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."

As a National Board Certified English teacher, Hopkins is accomplished in developing curriculum, implementing rigorous lessons and designing meaningful activities that support and motivate all student learners. Collaborating with colleagues to incorporate reading and writing into their coursework, Hopkins makes interdisciplinary connections while reinforcing the importance of English skills across all subject areas.

"From at-risk to gifted students, Lauren Hopkins always ensures her learners are intellectually challenged and instructed in the complex discipline of English Language Arts. Strong literacy skills are paramount for every individual as they navigate other high school curricula and venture toward college and career paths," said Jane Foley. "Her passion for literature comes alive for these students and it has benefitted the whole school environment; Coventry High has experienced a 12% increase in graduation rates since her tenure began. We’re proud to welcome Lauren into the Milken Educator family."

"When I look at some of the top priorities we set for this school year – strong literacy instruction, developing career pathways through more personalized learning, shared school leadership – Lauren Hopkins is working to support these initiatives and more every single day at Coventry High School," said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "Great learning requires great teaching, and Lauren is an example of the type of committed, compassionate educator it takes to bring out the best in our students. Congratulations to Lauren and to Coventry High School on this well-deserved recognition."

"While there are many educators in RI who were considered for this recognition and honor, I cannot think of a teacher who is more deserving," said Superintendent Craig Levis. "To all new teachers out there, I would say watch and listen to Lauren; see how she engages, prompts and challenges her students...feel her passion and commitment. This is the art of teaching."

About Milken Educator Lauren Hopkins
Lauren Hopkins, an English teacher and literacy specialist at Coventry High School in Rhode Island, has a knack for getting recalcitrant readers to love books. With her struggling learners, who typically lag two years or more behind their grade level in reading, Hopkins goes to great lengths to personalize her instruction, choosing texts that align with each student's interests. Her approach yields significant gains—an average of two years' growth each year. Coventry's graduation rate has risen 12% during Hopkins' tenure, in part because of her continued work with at-risk students.

Parents clamor to have their children taught by Hopkins, a National Board Certified teacher known to create classroom environments that are safe, respectful and intellectually challenging. She teaches students at all levels, from gifted to special needs; last year she co-taught an 11th-grade classroom with a special education teacher. She brings the latest educational methods into her class, included blended learning, station rotations, close reading, Socratic seminars and multiple grouping patterns. Her classroom library contains more than 100 books Hopkins has personally read and recommends to students.

Hopkins cultivates a professional learning culture at Coventry. She attended the Center for Leadership and Educational Equity and is now developing Coventry's professional development plan. Colleagues rely on Hopkins' deep expertise in literacy for help developing lessons, text-to-testcomparisons and assessments. Hopkins has helped align Coventry's ELA curriculum to the Common Core standards, taught literacy courses sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, and presented to staff on literacy and technology. She mentors younger teachers and participates on the Culture and Climate Committee, School Improvement Team, Strategic Planning Committee and Advisory Committee. Hopkins has coordinated the Gingerbread Express program, through which teachers provide holiday gifts for 60 of the school's neediest students. She exudes school spirit and attends countless proms, dances, athletic events and student performances. Students have recognized Hopkins several times at the school's "Invite a Teacher" sporting events; the teacher wore a student jersey and was recognized at halftime.

Hopkins earned a bachelor's degree in secondary and middle English education from the University of Rhode Island in 2001.

More information about Hopkins, 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, Hopkins' 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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Lynne Russo 
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