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Expecting More from Students Earns a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Teacher Brooke Lee

Oklahoma English teacher's eclectic and inclusive methods uplift eighth graders at Will Rogers Junior High

November 26, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Brooke Lee's English classes are the ultimate safe place for eighth graders at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore, OK. Students of all ability levels and aptitudes contribute in her classes, which feature flexible lessons that can accommodate variations based on student passions, abilities and potential growth in the subject matter. Employing adaptable and inclusive lessons to bring the best out in all, Lee makes sure students compete against themselves, not others. Her students regularly show two years of academic growth in a single year and outperform state standards in English Language Arts. A paragon of respectful learning and nurturing education, Lee is an adherent of Universal Design for Learning and is helping Claremore Public Schools transform itself into a Great Expectations model school district. 

Yet it was Lee who was celebrating rising expectations this morning 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 State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. Lee was named a 2019-20 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Oklahoma this year, and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20. 

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" have 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." 

Lee is bringing that future to all of her students, including those with disabilities, thanks to her flexible instruction skills, emotional intelligence and analytical approach. An innovator in English Language Arts, Lee is also helping push forward the Claremore district's STEM initiatives. A caring colleague who mentors and coaches both new and established educators, Lee also understands the importance of involving families and the community in education to enhance every individual student's personal learning experience. 

"Brooke Lee knows that the gift of language is incredibly important for her students and is able to craft her lessons to meet individual needs," said Foley. "Brooke's commitment to each child's growth and her creative yet empirically grounded approach to teaching is the kind of inspirational leadership we seek in Milken Educators." 

"Every child in Oklahoma deserves to be inspired by the very power of education itself and the potential of a bright future, and Oklahoma's teachers help to make this possible each day," said Governor Kevin Stitt. "They invest in children from all walks of life and ultimately leave an impact that extends far beyond the walls of our schools. Oklahoma is proud of Brooke Lee as she sets the standard for exceptional teaching and helps to make our shared vision of a Top Ten education system possible." 

"The impact Brooke has made on students and families is nothing short of extraordinary. We are so proud to have her represent Oklahoma on the national stage," said Hofmeister. "Brooke creates an environment where her students feel safe, valued and connected, while inspiring her fellow educators to discover innovative, evidence-based strategies that bolster student outcomes." 

"Mrs. Lee believes that education is the equalizer for all students and that relationships are the foundation of student learning," said Bryan Frazier, superintendent of Claremore Public Schools. "She is not only an outstanding, caring teacher to students, but she is also a teacher leader actively involved in collaborative learning with staff. It's fitting that the Milken Educator Award is considered the Oscars of Teaching because she is a true superstar in our school and our community." 

About Milken Educator Brooke Lee

Lindsay Brooke Lee, the English department chair at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore, Oklahoma, creates an environment in her eighth-grade classroom where all students feel connected to a community of fellow learners. Lee, who goes by her middle name, employs the tenets of Universal Design for Learning by providing lessons and experiences that engage her students through their individual interests. She insists on meeting the needs of all students, and her class often includes pupils receiving special education and 504 services. 

Lee has had student poetry published in the local newspaper and sparks discussions about social equity through historical fiction. She uses research-based pedagogy with multiple learning strategies and relies on ongoing formative, summative and benchmark assessments to see what students have absorbed and adjust her lesson plans. Students take pride in and ownership of their classroom and learning, to great effect. Lee's students consistently outperform state ELA proficiency scores. Last year 44% showed an average increase of 2.1 years or more of academic growth on district benchmark assessments. 

As the leader of the Will Rogers professional learning community, Lee organizes and facilitates weekly meetings. She is a member of the Scholar Squad, a group of educators who explore pedagogical research and best practices, and is a leader of the Guided Coalition, a committee of educators and administrators collaborating on unpacking standards and creating formative assessments. After the district passed a $50 million bond, Lee was asked to participate on the team planning a state-of-the-art STEM facility. She leads professional development, mentors both incoming and career teachers, and hosts pre-service educators. Claremore Public Schools has committed to becoming a Great Expectations model district, and Lee was chosen to become a Great Expectations instructor for her colleagues. 

Lee knows how important it is for parents to be involved in their children’s education and makes every effort to keep them in the loop. She arranged with Rogers County Youth Services to bring programs into the school for students facing social and economic challenges. A former basketball player, Lee brings leadership skills and a team mentality to her role: When she sees a problem, she seeks out the resources needed and brings people together to fix it. 

Lee earned a bachelor's degree in 2014 from Northeastern State University and is pursuing a master's degree in administration. 

More information about Lee, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at https://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/Brooke-Lee

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 www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards, www.twitter.com/milken, www.youtube.com/milkenaward and www.instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.

For more information, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org 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 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; 
lynneerusso@gmail.com


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