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Helping 4th-Graders Do the Write Thing Earns Silvia Miranda a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Clovis, New Mexico teacher finds that writing is fundamental to math and more at Mesa Elementary

November 20, 2018

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Who knew that improving fourth-graders' writing skills would be part of the NEW new math? Teacher Silvia Miranda, that's who. While taking a deep data dive into her students' academic progress at Mesa Elementary in Clovis, New Mexico, Miranda had an epiphany that improved writing could lead to other improvements as well. Working with other teachers and staff, and adjusting their teaching methods on the fly, Miranda and her Mesa colleagues pinpointed the problem and flat out fixed it. The surprising insight and practical hands-on solution was no real surprise to those who work with her: Miranda's students consistently outperform school, district and state averages on assessments in reading, writing and math.

Yet Miranda was the one over achieving unexpectedly today at a surprise school assembly, where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and New Mexico Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski. A stunned Miranda 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 New Mexico this year, and is among the up to 40 honorees for 2018-19.

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."

Blazing the trail toward that better-educated future, Miranda is an energetic teacher to her class, a grade-level leader at her school and has been a state ambassador to the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network. She is a data-driven educator and a teacher leader for Clovis Municipal Schools, providing professional development, leading data review and analysis, and observing and mentoring peers.

"All-around, all-star educators like Silvia Miranda have a knack for bringing out the best in students and colleagues with their drive, their insight, their innovation and their heart," said Foley. "We're proud to welcome her as a Milken Educator."

"Ms. Silvia Miranda is without question, as evidenced by her students' academic growth, one of New Mexico's highest-performing teachers," said Ruszkowski. "She has demonstrated brilliance in her craft and is a testament to the transformative power of excellent teaching in our students' lives."

"On behalf of Clovis Municipal Schools, I would like to congratulate Silvia Miranda and the entire Mesa staff and students for Silvia receiving New Mexico's Milken Educator Award," said Superintendent of Clovis Municipal Schools Jody Balch. "Silvia is a very gifted teacher as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in her classroom. Silvia would be the first to recognize her fantastic students and her peers for her ongoing teaching success. This award is fantastic for our district and the community of Clovis."

About Milken Educator Silvia Miranda
Silvia Miranda relies heavily on data to drive her instruction for the fourth-graders at Mesa Elementary School in Clovis, New Mexico. When the fourth-grade team realized that students were struggling more with writing than with reading or math, Miranda, as grade-level leader, jumped in to develop a plan. She pulled writing prompts from PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments, developed a rubric for students to use as a guide, and set up a collaborative process where multiple teachers scored each essay to spot patterns and trends. It turned out that the students excelled in technical writing but often failed to address the prompts, so Miranda designed lessons to show students that great writing won't earn a high score if it doesn't answer the questions being asked. Writing has improved across the fourth grade at Mesa, and Miranda's students consistently outperform school, district and state averages on assessments in reading, writing and math.

Miranda spends countless hours learning about her craft, including webinars, cohort meetings, state conferences and extensive reading and research, always sharing relevant findings with her colleagues in Clovis Municipal Schools (CMS). Welcoming educational leadership positions, Miranda will serve as a CMS Teacher Leader for 2018-19, providing professional development, leading data review and analysis, observing and mentoring peers. Miranda has been a state ambassador to the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network for two years and now serves on the Secretary's Teacher Advisory. Known as a quiet yet powerful educator with an infectious energy, Miranda excels at inspiring colleagues to increase their level of involvement and influence at the state level.

Parents often request Miranda for their children, knowing that she holds herself and her students to the highest standards and insists that every student succeed. She incorporates Whole Brain strategies and a growth mindset philosophy in her classroom and encourages students to pursue their interests. An experienced bilingual educator, Miranda prepares students for the district's Spanish spelling bee. She launched a Bananagrams tournament during lunch and organized the Mesa Science Fair for fourth- and fifth-graders, bringing in more than 20 judges from nearby Cannon Air Force Base and Clovis Community College. Miranda helped write Mesa's National Blue Ribbon Award application and traveled to Washington with her principal to receive the school's award.

Miranda received a bachelor's degree in education from Eastern New Mexico University in 2004 and a master's from Wayland Baptist University in 2013.

More information about Miranda, 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;