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Math Instructor Laura Servin Becomes First San Antonio ISD Teacher to Win Milken Educator Award and $25,000 Cash Prize
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath Make Surprise Announcement at Whittier Middle School
February 18, 2016
SANTA MONICA, CA — Before cheering students, respected colleagues, distinguished officials and media gathered at Whittier Middle School, math teacher Laura Servin became San Antonio Independent School District’s first recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award. The Award comes with an unrestricted $25,000 financial prize. Servin is also the sole recipient of the Award in Texas for the 2015-16 season.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath surprised Servin in a packed school assembly. Representing the Milken Family Foundation was Dr. Gary Stark, chief executive officer of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching and an Arkansas 2001 Milken Educator.
Surprise is a key element of the Milken Educator Award announcement, designed to inspire students to join the exciting adventure of teaching. Before today’s event, all school staff members and students knew was that they were going to be commended for their achievements. Halfway into the assembly, the focus turned to an individual honor for a teacher.
Servin is among up to only 40 educators who will receive the national recognition 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.
“Teaching is more than just a job—it’s a calling,” said Abbott. “Our teachers do so much more than just share their knowledge and passion for learning, they help students make their dreams a reality. I would like to thank Laura Servin, Principal Janet Perez and Superintendent Pedro Martinez for bringing this tremendous honor to Whittier Middle School and helping elevate the next generation of Texas students.”
“Laura Servin embodies the very qualities that make for an effective teacher, and the success of her students is a testament to her dedication,” said Morath. “Servin’s hard work to help assure every student has a chance to succeed is indicative of the commitment shared among the many effective educators in classrooms across our state.”
Passionate about teaching and doing whatever it takes to help students succeed, eighth-grade math teacher Laura Servin is known as a go-to expert for motivating students at Whittier Middle School, a health and science internal charter middle school in the San Antonio Independent School District.
This commitment is put into practice in Servin’s classroom, where she creates a safe and nurturing learning environment for her students. Curriculum content jumps off the page as students engage in project-based learning. Servin sets high expectations and actively involves students in their own progress and outcomes. She pays acute attention to individual needs, and offers tutoring before and after school as well as during lunch and on weekends, to ensure that her students stay on task.
Catering to the school’s 98% Hispanic population—including 94% of whom are on free- and reduced-price lunch—Servin communicates to students and their parents in Spanish as well as English, and makes building strong relationships paramount to success.
These efforts have resulted in Servin’s algebra students achieving 100% mastery on the state algebra test and students in her other math classes obtaining high pass rates.
Beyond the classroom, Servin’s involvement on the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) site team has helped place students on a clear path to college and career, and earned Whittier Middle recognition as an AVID National Demonstration School. She serves on the school leadership team, is a teacher mentor, helps lead the pep squad, and works as the school’s sponsor on the National Junior Honors Society (NJHS). One NJHS project involved securing a grant for Amazon Kindle e-readers for students to read to elementary students and others throughout the community. Servin has also coached seventh- and eighth-grade girls’ volleyball, and has taught summer school—including in reading—to improve passing rates on the state test.
At the district and community levels, Servin has participated in professional development, sharing her practices and bringing valuable lessons back to her school. Her compassion for others is reflected in her lead role coordinating the Race for Cancer activities at school and in the community, honoring a colleague who has ovarian cancer.
Servin holds her bachelor’s degree and Texas teaching certification from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, both received in 2006.
More information about Servin, plus photos and a video from today’s assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/laura-servin.
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.
In addition to participation in the 2,600-strong national Milken Educator Network, 2015-16 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in New Orleans next month. Milken Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal leaders about the importance of amplifying teacher voices to advance educator effectiveness.
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. The contest will award a total of three winners. The first two were selected in November 2015 and February 2016 and the third will be announced on a date to be determined in April 2016.
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 www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.
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.