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Music City Is Home to a Teaching Star

Nashville School of the Arts English Department Chair Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

November 10, 2015

SANTA MONICA, CA — Nashville, Tennessee, is known for generating some of the best musical talent on the planet. Today, Misty Ayres-Miranda of Nashville School of the Arts (NSA) was celebrated for her artistic and teaching chops with a Milken Educator Award and $25,000 cash prize.

Ayres-Miranda—NSA’s English department chair—is among up to only 40 educators who will be presented with the prestigious 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.

The award was presented by Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen and National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) President and CEO Dr. Gary Stark. Stark, a veteran Milken Educator Award recipient from Arkansas, served as a representative on behalf of the Milken Family Foundation at a surprise ceremony at NSA in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

“It’s our responsibility to ensure that Tennessee students are prepared to succeed after high school, and Misty Ayres-Miranda is working every day to help her students get there,” Commissioner McQueen said. “She has gone above and beyond to support and encourage students in and out of her classroom.” 

Ayres-Miranda teaches English, Honors English and AP English Literature to grades 9-12.  She also created and directs the school’s new Literary Arts Conservatory, designed to provide students with opportunities to perform, write and produce plays and films. Teens learn to express themselves in a large variety of ways. They perform at the poetry slams and spoken word events that Ayres-Miranda organizes at the school, as well as in poetry competitions around Nashville. The students also perform with several local arts organizations, such as the Country Music Association and the Nashville Symphony.

Graduation and literacy rates have increased at the school, thanks in part to Ayres-Miranda’s skillfully planned project-based learning, lessons rooted in academic standards and Socratic seminars. Her exceptional instruction and the progress of her students have consistently earned her the highest possible ratings in both growth and achievement on the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM) for the past seven years. This work has helped to drive school English scores well above the state averages.

Ayres-Miranda devotes countless hours during and after school to help students grasp concepts and complete projects, and she can often be found tutoring them during her lunch hour. As a result of her impact, many have continued post-secondary studies in literature and educational instruction.

Outside of class, Ayres-Miranda is a Student Council advisor, leads School Spirit week, serves on the school executive leadership team, and often mentors current and new teachers. A talented performer in her own right, she is a vocalist for NSA jazz ensemble, and serves as a bilingual Spanish interpreter for family and community members from South America.

Ayres-Miranda earned a 2007 bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University, and a Master of Fine Arts from Belmont University in 2014.

In Tennessee, 63 educators have been recognized since the program began in the state in 1992. Since that time, the program has awarded more than $1.5 million to Tennessee educators.

More information about Ayres-Miranda, 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. The three photos with the most “likes” will be selected in November 2015, and February and 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 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.

Press Contact:

Jana Rausch
Communications Director
310-570-4774 Office 310-435-9259 Cell