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Happy #NationalSTEMDay! Fairport Harbor Science Teacher Nathan Yaussy First in District to Receive $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Ohio's only 2019-20 Milken Award recipient brings science to life

November 08, 2019

Santa Monica, Calif., — National STEM Day just got personal for one outstanding Ohio teacher. Before a room of cheering students, colleagues, officials and the media, Nathan Yaussy of Fairport Harding Early College High School was surprised with the state's 2019-20 Milken Educator Award and its unrestricted $25,000 cash prize.

Yaussy is among up to 40 honorees nationwide to receive the recognition during the 2019-20 season and the first from the Fairport Harbor Exempted Village School District. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria joined National Institute for Excellence in Teaching CEO Dr. Candice McQueen to acknowledge Yaussy's commitment to bringing science to life.

"I can think of no better way to celebrate National STEM Day than to honor exceptional science teachers like Nathan Yaussy," said Dr. McQueen, who presented the award on behalf of the Milken Family Foundation. "Nathan makes learning tangible and exciting, both in and out of the classroom. With every lesson, students develop critical skills to think deeply and make the world a better place. As part of the National Milken Educator Network of excellence, Nathan will have a platform to broaden his impact and influence."  

Hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching," the goal of the Milken Educator Awards is to celebrate, elevate and activate the American teaching profession and inspire young, capable people to join it. The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award.

"I couldn't be prouder to team up with the Milken Family Foundation to honor Nathan Yaussy and to recognize the incredible difference he is making in the lives of his students. It's obvious that his enthusiasm, commitment and compassion are contagious among the students and staff at Fairport Harding," said Superintendent DeMaria. "I'm blown away by the level of excitement and support we’ve encountered as we planned his award presentation today. It's clear that Mr. Yaussy is a beloved member of his school community who is very deserving of this recognition."

More About Nathan Yaussy

Innovation: Yaussy's students learn about science in an atmosphere replete with fun, fascination and wonder. At Fairport Harding Early College High School in Fairport Harbor, Yaussy inspires students to protect the planet and understand the scientific underpinnings of our world. For the final project in Yaussy's anatomy class, students used their knowledge of forensics to plan a murder and leave clues for the following year's class to solve. Yaussy uses silly noises to explain the way sound waves travel, makes rock candy to teach about crystallization, and uses a lifelike puppet to keep students engaged in discussions. His students build boats out of trash and launch them into Lake Erie to increase awareness of pollution. In Yaussy's science fiction elective, students create comic books inspired by "The Martian" and share them with elementary students in the district. So many students wanted to take Yaussy's classes that the school rearranged the schedule to eliminate conflicts with rehearsals for the school’s robust marching band. Lively and entertaining, Yaussy teaches his students to conduct scientific research, work as a team, present their findings and stand up for their beliefs. 

Community: To give all students in the community the opportunity to engage with science, Yaussy secured funding to offer 4-week summer classes. In aquatic ecology, students visited parks, explored streams, caught bugs and animals, and learned to sample and test water quality. The zoology summer class included visits to zoos in Columbus and Akron, a Lake Erie fish hatchery and Fairport Beach. Yaussy invited Lake Metroparks educators to bring live animals to the class, and students learned about the harmful effects of trash on wild animals during a community cleanup day.

Leadership: Yaussy started the school's recycling and science clubs, coordinates the science fair, and took a group to March for Science Cleveland. As founder and leader of the "Know It All" academic challenge team, Yaussy celebrates each right answer and welcomes every student to participate.

Impact: Yaussy sees every student question as a learning opportunity. He got the whole school buzzing about cicadas one day when he spotted the insects' shells in a tree near the school bus drop-off. Yaussy's love of teaching and learning is contagious: He is a compassionate educator who meets students where they are, treats all with respect and connects particularly well with students who are neither athletes nor social butterflies. Students consistently name Yaussy as an educator who has impacted their lives.

Education: Yaussy earned a bachelor's in biology from Hiram College in 2008. In 2013, he received a master's in ecology from Kent State University and a master's in education from John Carroll University.

More information about Yaussy, plus links to photos and video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

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 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. 

The 2019-20 honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis 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 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy.

  • Over the years, more than $140 million in funding, including $70 million for the individual cash awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers. 
  • The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators; this season honors secondary school teachers. 
  • Veteran Milken Educators frequently go on to leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 
  • Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards 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. 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.