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Transforming Students into Video Storytellers Earns Teacher Adam Parvanta a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Maine technology educator helps students edit their futures at Gorham High School

October 30, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — "Let's go to the video" isn't just something they say on the nightly news in Gorham, Maine. It's also the go-to skill for student storytellers at Gorham High School, thanks to the pervasive and forward-looking influence of technology teacher Adam Parvanta. A tech mentor for grade 9 through 12 students as well as staff, Parvanta puts technology in student hands and teaches them how to craft stories large and small. Whether it's augmenting class projects, highlighting student activities or helping students create visual résumé boosters to supplement their college applications, Parvanta deploys technology in ways that spur students to become creators of content rather than just passive consumers. He gives students the technology tools to edit and improve their futures and, as a result, student engagement and enthusiasm is through the roof. 

Yet it was Parvanta whose future was being elevated this morning at a surprise school assembly where he was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. An excited Parvanta was named a 2019-20 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. He is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Maine this year, and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20. 

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 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." 

Parvanta is bringing that future into sharper focus with hands-on technology expertise passed on to students. His non-traditional approach truly connects with students, and his understated passion for video editing and storytelling prompts students to spend extra time on their schoolwork as they learn skills that will translate well in an evolving future of rapidly advancing technology. 

"Adam Parvanta knows that technology is an essential foundation for education just as it is throughout life," said Foley. "By integrating tech narrative skills into the classroom, Parvanta is helping students become authors of their own life stories. We're proud to welcome this innovative and visionary Milken Educator." 

"Mr. Parvanta exemplifies the power of individual teachers to inspire students and to transform school culture," said Makin, who was herself named a Milken Educator in 2001. "Described by colleagues as a quiet leader, he consistently finds opportunities to apply his content and instructional practice in authentic and meaningful ways that connect and celebrate students, staff, and community. Maine Department of Education is proud to join the Gorham School Department and the Milken Family Foundation in honoring Adam Parvanta, Maine's 2019 Milken Education Award recipient!" 

"I have never met an educator more passionate about both the students he serves and his teaching craft," said Gorham District Superintendent Heather Perry. "Adam builds strong caring relationships with students and shows them how to use the broad medium of video to create and share their passions with the world. He may always seem like he is "behind" a camera...but he is at the cutting edge of our work as educators. I know he is proud to be a Gorham Ram...but he should know that our students, staff, parents and community are also proud to have him as part of our family!" 

About Milken Educator Adam Parvanta

Adam Parvanta uses technology to turn students into storytellers. The technology integrator at Maine's Gorham High School (GHS) and an avid videographer, Parvanta captures the essence of the school's culture with videos celebrating events and accomplishments large and small. Working with teams of eager students behind the camera and in the editing room, Parvanta creates videos to welcome students and staff back at the beginning of the year, highlight athletes' big wins, and entices the community to fill the auditorium for the annual musical. With his guidance, seniors create "resume" videos to submit as supplements to college applications. Parvanta reconfigured his office to include stations where students can work on their projects and loans them equipment to bring their ideas to life. Students flock to Parvanta and spend many non-class hours learning from him—not because they have to, but because he motivates them to make their work better. 

Parvanta shares his visual storytelling skills in the classroom, too. He teaches two technology classes, but much of his time is spent helping GHS teachers incorporate technology into their lessons. Students and teachers now use technology to create content rather than just consume it. As an alternative to writing papers, Parvanta helps students design effective multimedia slide presentations and infographics. He is known as a quiet leader who has already had a profound impact on education in Gorham. Because of Parvanta, students are fulfilling one of the district's core missions: becoming clear, effective communicators. 

Parvanta has a magical capacity to connect with students and colleagues and inspire the community through his videos. When he taught math at Gorham Middle School, students made documentary and horror films for the film festival he oversaw, and a playful "Got Buckets" basketball-themed student video went viral, with almost 100,000 views on YouTube. Parvanta produced a moving video about Gorham's unified basketball program, in which GHS students play and compete with special needs students, and helped Gorham secure an Adopt-A-Classroom grant from the Maine Educational Loan Marketing Corporation to connect high school and elementary students. For a video celebrating school district staff, Parvanta sought out and featured a 98-year-old retired educator. Clearly, Parvanta is that rare educator who celebrates and elevates the past even as he moves confidently into the future. 

Parvanta earned a bachelor's degree in education in 2003 from the University of Maine. 

More information about Parvanta, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at https://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/Adam-Parvanta.

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, the 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, 2019-20 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, 2020 where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, the Milken Educator Awards' "Why Not Us" program will pair each 2019-20 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. 

More than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development 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 selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.

The cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways; for instance, on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even on 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. Everyone is encouraged to watch the tour at www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards, www.twitter.com/milken, www.youtube.com/milkenaward and www.instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.

For more information, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org 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 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.

Lynne Russo 
(818) 903-6079 cell; 
lynneerusso@gmail.com


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