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Petal Teacher Receives $25,000 for Building a Legacy of Education in His Hometown

Fifth grade educator Tyler Shows helped school survive, and thrive, after 2017 tornado and pandemic

October 18, 2022

PETAL, Miss.  — When Petal, Mississippi's, senior high school students receive an extra ticket for their graduation ceremony, many of them know exactly who they will invite: their fifth grade teacher, Tyler Shows. It is an honor reserved for only a few teachers, and Shows is one of them. His commitment to his students, creativity in the classroom and leadership throughout the community were celebrated today when Shows was surprised at Petal Upper Elementary School with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award presented by the Milken Family Foundation. Shows received the Award at a schoolwide assembly of cheering students, appreciative colleagues, local dignitaries and media. 

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.  

"Petal Upper Elementary School educators have experienced so many challenges recently, from a tornado in 2017 to the pandemic. Thanks to Tyler and so many other incredible teachers, they have found ways to rise above and maintain an excellent learning community for their students," said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. "Tyler is building a positive legacy of education here in his hometown school district, and for that, we honor him today." 

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. 

"I applaud Mr. Shows for having an intentional focus of daily bringing real-world experiences into the classroom to instill a love of learning and build confidence," said Dr. Kim Benton, Mississippi's interim State Superintendent of Education. "Not only does he inspire students, but he also pays it forward by working with his high school's Teacher Academy and by mentoring colleagues through the National Board Certification process."  

More About Tyler Shows 

Making Math Come to Life: Fifth graders at Petal Upper Elementary School learn to love math thanks to Tyler Shows. The teacher connects math to the real world as he focuses on the concepts underlying each lesson, intentionally building students' confidence and inspiring them to rise to his high expectations. Shows writes on students' desks with dry-erase markers and incorporates games like Trashketball, Stinky Feed, and Draw Down to keep students engaged. He knows each student's individual strengths and weaknesses, skillfully bridging their transition from fourth grade and analyzing assessment data to inform next steps for each child to succeed. And they do: Shows' students achieved 116% of projected growth on the NWEA MAP assessments from Fall 2021 to Spring 2022. In addition, Petal School District's fifth graders have delivered among the highest Mississippi MAP math scores in the state every year since Shows' arrival in 2014. Due in part to Shows' leadership and inspiration, Petal Upper has grown from a D to an A – and has maintained the A despite enduring devastation from a 2017 tornado and disruption from the pandemic. 

Mentor Amongst Colleagues, Students: Shows serves as grade-level chair and leads a professional learning community of six math teachers who work to develop standards-aligned lessons, create assessments and track data. He organizes professional development, leads instructional rounds and facilitates feedback, and mentors both new and pre-service teachers. To build the teacher recruitment pipeline, Shows collaborates with the district's Teacher Academy to host high school students interested in pursuing careers in education. He serves as a professional learning facilitator in the University of Southern Mississippi's World Class Teaching Program and sits on the district superintendent's advisory council. When COVID-19 closed his building, Shows spearheaded the school's Panthers Online program, offering video tutorials and virtual learning opportunities. The online instruction was so effective that it was extended and repurposed into a lesson study team for the 2021-22 school year. 

Homegrown Teacher Inspires Next Generation: Once a student in the district where he now teaches, Shows hones relationships with students and families that last for years after children leave his classroom. Sixth graders frequently visit to catch up on life events, and Shows often attends sporting events and performances for students he taught years earlier. Each spring, seniors get one graduation ticket to give to a teacher of their choice; Shows is a popular recipient. 

Education: Shows holds a bachelor's in business and accounting from the University of Mississippi (2012) and a master's in gifted education from William Carey University (2019). In 2021, he became a National Board Certified Exceptional Needs Specialist.

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 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