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Helping Special Students Make Spectacular Strides Earns Therese Shain a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Missouri special ed teacher's high expectations reap great results at Bayless Elementary

February 13, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif., —Teacher Therese Shain helps special education students achieve spectacular results at Bayless Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri. She does it by taking fundamentals to the next level, augmenting "The Three R's" with individualized social skills training to match each student's needs. Shain expects a lot from her pupils as they prepare, plan, execute and then analyze their own learning using checklists, charts and graphs for each learning cycle before moving on to the next. Giving students a hand in their own education keeps them involved and improving. The results show in students’ academic growth, meeting more than 90% of their reading goals and over 80% of their goals in writing and math.

Yet, it was Shain who was achieving above and beyond today at a surprise school assembly where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken and Missouri Commissioner of Education Dr. Margie Vandeven. An appreciative Shain was named a 2018-19 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Missouri this year and is among the 33 honorees nationally.

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."

Giving kids with behavioral difficulties and learning disabilities a piece of that brighter tomorrow is what drives Shain. In addition to working with students directly to create and manage their educational goals and strategies, she works closely with individual classroom instructors and mentors young special ed teachers. She also keeps families engaged in students' progress; Shain speaks with each student's parents weekly to keep them in the loop and make sure everyone is on the same page.

"To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'The secret in education is respecting the student,'" said Milken. "Therese Shain is living this truth by helping students with challenges craft their own unique and highly effective paths to learning. We are proud to welcome her as a Milken Educator."

"As a special education teacher, Therese helps her students reach through their challenges and have a voice in their learning," said Vandeven. "She is an example of the type of effective educator every child deserves. I congratulate her on this outstanding achievement."

"Therese Shain is a teacher's teacher, an accomplished educator," said Bayless School Superintendent Ron Tucker. "Her goal each day is to provide her students with effective instruction in a very caring classroom. She does this with little fanfare and simply loves to teach. She is very deserving of this recognition."

About Milken Educator Therese Shain
As a special education teacher at Bayless Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri, Therese Shain holds students accountable for their own learning. Before each learning cycle, she works with students to define specific short-term learning goals. Grouped by skill level, students maintain learning folders with their objectives, graphics for monitoring learning percentages, long-term IEP goals and learning strategies. At the end of the cycle, students complete a self-assessment and graph the results on both individual and group charts. The students study the results as a group and work together to make the changes needed, then create an action plan for the next learning cycle. Graphing days motivate students; showing their progress to visitors keeps them excited and engaged.

Shain, who is employed by the Special School District of St. Louis County, has taught at Bayless for a decade and enjoys great success working with students with challenging behavioral problems. She serves as a check-in and check-out mentor, meeting daily with students to review goals, remind them of success strategies, and bestow praise and encouragement. Shain includes students voices in the classroom, making them part of developing the mission, class rules, routines, academic goals and data charting process. She teaches a social skills group, as well as reading, writing and math groups. Shain's students show great progress in all academic areas, meeting more than 90% of their reading goals, 80% of writing goals, and 80% of math.

Shain has served on the special education area leadership team, Positive Behavioral Intervention Strategies (PBIS) teams, school leadership team and professional development committee. She mentors new teachers and coaches colleagues through their behavior plans. She builds consensus effectively: When creating a new behavior plan, she gives the student choices, incorporates research-based strategies, and meets with both the classroom teacher and parents prior to implementing the plan. Shain communicates weekly with parents, keeping them up to date on their child’s progress, behavior issues and upcoming assignments.

Shain earned a bachelor's degree in elementary and special education in 2004 from the University of Missouri St. Louis and a master's in educational counseling and psychology in 2007 from the University of Missouri Columbia.

More information about Shain, 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, 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, 2018-19 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in New Orleans from March 21-24, 2019. 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, 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 31 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.

Lynne Russo 
(818) 903-6079 cell;