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Carpe Diem! Lexington, South Carolina, Latin Teacher Kimberly Freeman Earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award

February 09, 2016

SANTA MONICA, CA — Lexington Middle School students jumped to their feet when a visit from South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly M. Spearman turned into a surprise honor for one outstanding teacher.

Kimberly Freeman, Latin instructor and world language department chair, was announced as a recipient of a prestigious Milken Educator Award during a schoolwide assembly attended by students, colleagues, distinguished officials and the media.

Spearman joined Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley to reveal the news.

Freeman is among up to 40 educators who will receive the national honor during the Milken Family Foundation’s (MFF) coast-to-coast tour across the country. MFF has been rewarding outstanding elementary and secondary educators with the Award since 1987.

“Kimberly Freeman has built Lexington Middle School’s Latin program into a vibrant community of learners spanning the district,” said Foley. “Her passion, leadership and engaging instruction help students make important connections between Latin and its practical applications across the curriculum. I look forward to her contributions to the Milken Educator Network, and to following her career shaping generations of global citizens.”   

“I am so proud of Kimberly Freeman and the devotion she exhibits every day to the students and community in Lexington,” said Spearman. “She is truly deserving of this great honor and will stand as a shining example for educators across our state. I want to thank the Milken Family Foundation for their hard work recognizing educators like Kimberly across the country. I am appreciative of our strong partnership and look forward to future collaboration to honor other outstanding South Carolina educators.”

Instilling an appreciation for Latin at Lexington Middle School, Freeman frames her lessons and assessment practices around collaboration and critical thinking, and has helped guide the district to a shift in performance-based curriculum for world languages. She developed a new system of proficiency assessment using a scaled model based on performance rubrics, self and external assessments, and Socratic seminars.

Freeman propelled the once-struggling Latin program to high enrollment at the school, and expanded its reach to 23,000 students districtwide through virtual courses. She has opened the door for learners to discover an ancient language and culture though a blended curriculum that links to modern tools and learning goals. This includes capitalizing on student interests of Harry Potter and mythology as well as The Hunger Games.

Another example is having students read a Latin wedding song to understand the importance of children in Roman families, then write letters in Latin to Roman children. She also designed and instructs a new project-based learning course called 702 North Lake (the address of Lexington Middle School), in which students use social media tools to confront local and global issues.

Her students are thriving with work beyond their years. They routinely score above the national average on the National Latin Exam and outperform high school students in world language courses. Her Latin academic team placed first at the South Carolina Certamen Competition in spring 2014.

As chair of the world language department and teacher leadership team, communications officer for the school and frequent presenter at local and national conferences, Freeman has made a significant impact on teachers and students alike. Colleagues follow her example, especially when it comes to building respectful relationships with students, and her insight is sought out by peers and administrators.

Freeman is an International Baccalaureate Middle Years certified teacher. She serves as a member of the American Classical League, National Junior Classical League, South Carolina Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers Association as well as the district and state world language curriculum teams, the state standard writing team and the state Foundations of School Leadership Program. Her strategies are leading the way toward producing plurilingual graduates, a key goal of the district.

Freeman earned a 2004 Bachelor of Arts in education with a classical languages concentration from Furman University. She is scheduled to complete her master’s in educational leadership at the University of South Carolina in May 2016.

More information about Freeman, plus photos and a video from today’s assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

The Milken Educator Awards program has been described as “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher magazine. Recipients are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Milken Awards are sourced through each participating state department of education, which appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to confidentially review candidates for recommendation to MFF.

This year, MFF launched a #MyTeacherRocks Instagram campaign that encourages students to take selfies with their favorite teacher and describe in the caption why their teacher is special. To enter the contest, entrants are asked to follow @MilkenFamilyFdn on Instagram, post their selfie to their individual account and use the #MyTeacherRocks and #MilkenAward hashtags. Two photos with the most “likes” will be selected on February 12 and a date to be determined in April 2016. The first of the three winners was selected in November 2015.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at;;; and

The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, were launched 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.