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Kathryn Daniels Stresses the 'Write Stuff' to Help History Students Excel, Garnering a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Mississippi students become historians through reading and writing at Petal High School

February 25, 2020

SANTA MONICA, Calif., – Mississippi high school teacher Kathryn Daniels brings history alive for her students not through rote memorization exercises but by bolstering their reading and writing skills. The former English teacher has demonstrated how enhanced communication skills can aid her Petal High School (PHS) students' critical thinking, argumentative tools and ability to understand opposing viewpoints. 

Because of her positive impact on students in her advanced placement (AP) European and U.S. history courses, Daniels was named a 2019-20 recipient of a Milken Educator Award. With the national recognition comes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize.   

Daniels was honored in a surprise ceremony by Dr. Carey Wright, Mississippi Superintendent of Education, and Greg Gallagher, Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director. Daniels is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Mississippi this year and is among 40 honorees for 2019-20. 

The co-leader of the PHS history department, Daniels collaborates with the school's English teachers to align reading and writing across the curriculum. She enlivens her classes with maps and political cartoons and invites community leaders as guests, including Petal's mayor. 

Daniels raises student expectations beyond the typical high school classroom. Under her leadership, AP history students have excelled on both AP and state exams. She also assists students beyond high school, tutoring them for college exams like the ACT. Through Distinguished Young Women, a national scholarship program, she's helped to promote and reward scholarship, leadership and talent. 

She's also actively sought resources for struggling students, including essay contests, scholarships and even by providing rides to school. On a broader scale, Daniels has improved writing achievement in the state's rural and underperforming schools by helping secure grants from the South Mississippi Writing Project. 

Daniels conveys the same philosophy whether inspiring high performing or challenged students:  that hard work and dedication are important qualities for lifelong success. 

"Kathryn Daniels has been an innovator and inspiration to her students, showing how history isn't just a study of past events but that it informs the world around us," said Gallagher. "As part of her process, she's accelerated her students' communicative abilities in ways that will benefit them going forward." 

"We are incredibly proud of Kathryn Daniels and the example she sets for her colleagues across Mississippi," said Superintendent Wright. "She sets high expectations for her students and provides them with the support and help to meet, and exceed, those expectations. I join her students, school and community in congratulating Mrs. Daniels for earning national recognition for her achievements as an educator." 

"Mrs. Daniels is very passionate about her craft as a teacher and professional learning community leader," said Petal School District Superintendent Dr. Matt Dillon. "She builds positive relationships with her students and faculty alike. Mrs. Daniels is always prepared and willing to go the extra mile for her students and colleagues." 

A PHS graduate and former valedictorian, Daniels hails from a family of educators. She earned a bachelor's in history in 2011 and a master's in education in 2013 from Mississippi College. Daniels is a member of the Mississippi Teacher Council and has presented at state boot camps and guest lectured at the University of Southern Mississippi. 

More information about Daniels, 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 2,800 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,, and

For more information, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

More About the Milken Educator Awards: "The future belongs to the educated."

The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. The Awards, created by Lowell Milken, 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. 

Along with the $25,000 financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.

Jean Cook