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New York Teacher Surprised with Prestigious Milken Educator Award and $25,000

Clyde-Savannah special education teacher Caitlin Garvey honored as one of nation's best educators, among up to 40 selected in nationwide tour

November 04, 2022

CLYDE, N.Y. — One upstate New York elementary teacher received the surprise of a lifetime today during a schoolwide assembly of cheering students, appreciative colleagues, local dignitaries and media. Caitlin Garvey, a special education teacher for first, second and third grades at Clyde-Savannah Elementary School, received the Milken Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation, which includes an unrestricted cash prize of $25,000. Garvey is the first recipient to receive the Award in the Clyde-Savannah Central School District. 

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year's winners' list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced. 

The Award was presented by Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop and New York State Department of Education Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Teacher and Leader Development Alex Trikalinos. 

"I am proud to welcome Caitlin Garvey to the Milken Educator Network and congratulate her on this well-deserved honor," said Bishop, who is also a 2001 Virginia Milken Educator. "Caitlin engages students through innovative methods to reach their highest potential, adapts instruction to the needs of every child, and displays exceptional leadership in the classroom, school and district." 

The Awards will honor up to 40 elementary educators in the 2022-23 school year. Over the past 35 years, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers.  

Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said, "Our state is home to some of the greatest educators in the world, and we are especially fortunate to honor one of them today with the Milken Educator Award. Caitlin Garvey prioritizes the needs of her students, creatively engages them every day, ensures they have access to the resources they need to learn, and prepares each of them to be successful both in and out of the classroom. Ms. Garvey meets her students where they are and provides them with the tools and resources to lift them up with meaningful learning every day. The Board of Regents and I congratulate Ms. Garvey on this prestigious award and thank her for her commitment to the students of New York State." 

New York State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, "As someone who began her career as a school paraprofessional, I know there is no limit to what you can achieve when you work hard and, most importantly, are dedicated to your craft and your students. Caitlin Garvey advanced her career from a teaching assistant to an exceptional special education classroom teacher who inspires her peers. Ms. Garvey's commitment to nurturing the whole child and working with her students' families are precisely the efforts that transform student outcomes. Congratulations to Ms. Garvey for this well-deserved honor." 

"Caitlin Garvey's career in education from beginning as a teaching assistant to her work today as a classroom teacher exemplifies her hard work and dedication to the students of New York State," said Assistant Commissioner Trikalinos. "Ms. Garvey's leadership inside and beyond the classroom serves as a model of excellence for the profession, and she is a notably positive and impactful influence on her students, colleagues and the school community at Clyde-Savannah CSD." 

More About Caitlin Garvey 

Commitment to Academic Growth, Closing Gaps, and Instilling Lifelong Learning: Leading a class of 12 special needs students with five paraprofessionals at Clyde-Savannah Elementary, Garvey emphasizes communication and language development while de-emphasizing barriers to learning. She works with a wide range of needs and unique abilities in the self-contained class, for which she designed the curriculum with the help of specialists in speech pathology, assistive technology, autism and more. Garvey finds creative ways to engage each child while holding them to their highest academic potential, closing educational gaps and building skills that will impact the students for life. Students use crayons to highlight words they know and are still working to master, and manipulatives to form compound sentences. Through the use of small-group experiential activities, Garvey's students show consistent growth in sight-word fluency, reading levels and increased time spent in integrated classroom settings. 

Leadership: Before moving to special education, Garvey taught many grade levels and served as a grade-level leader, as well as a member of the school's leadership team. A school leader and mentor in data-based decision-making, including creating assessments, Garvey excels at gathering and analyzing data and using it to adapt instruction for improved student performance. She also mentors other teachers and has led professional development on differentiation and student engagement strategies. On the district’s instructional leadership team, Garvey contributes to curriculum mapping, development and material selection. 

Success Through Family Partnerships: Through a "whole-child" approach, Garvey forms a genuine bond with families while ensuring parents feel valued, respected, heard and informed. She understands and appreciates students' and families' diverse needs and serves as a knowledgeable resource for peers on trauma, poverty and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). When the pandemic closed school buildings, she reached out to families to ensure children had the technology they needed to engage in remote learning—a unique and extremely necessary challenge for her students—and coached parents on how best to support their children's education. 

Education: Garvey earned a bachelor's in English literature and inclusive childhood and middle childhood education from Nazareth College in 2011 and a master's in literacy education from SUNY Oneonta in 2021.

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

Along with the financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,900 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. 

  • The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. 
  • In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFF) mentoring program, in which new Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice. 
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 
  • "We find you. You don't find us!" Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation. 
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.   

To receive regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the Award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward). 

For more information, visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772. 

About the Milken Educator Awards
The 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. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at MFF.org


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