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Central Falls Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Excellence in Teaching

Segue Institute for Learning's John Rosenbaum brings learning to life for his students

Oprah Winfrey congratulates Milken Educators in heartwarming video message as 'light in this world'

March 29, 2022

Central Falls, RI  — In a surprise assembly this afternoon John Rosenbaum, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Segue Institute for Learning, received a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for his unique approach to teaching: bringing learning to life through educational, creative experiences his students will remember for a lifetime. 

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green surprised Rosenbaum with the national honor, which includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. Rosenbaum will join a national network of more than 2,800 Milken Educators and education leaders across the U.S. 

"It is a truly unique individual who can make learning come to life in the classroom, and John Rosenbaum is one of those educators," said Dr. Foley, who herself is a 1994 Milken Educator from Indiana. "His creative, hands-on approach to learning, his commitment to advocate for his students, and his collaborative approach to learning are what make him a Milken Educator Award recipient." 

Rosenbaum is among more than 60 educators nationwide to receive the recognition during the 2021-2022 school year and only one of two recipients in Rhode Island. Earlier today, Governor Daniel McKee joined Education Commissioner Infante-Green and the Milken Family Foundation to surprise third grade teacher Nancie Lawrence in Pascoag with the Award. 

"The Segue Institute for Learning school community is fortunate to have John Rosenbaum educating and inspiring students with creative and engaging lessons," said Governor Dan McKee. "We are so proud John has been awarded the Milken Educator Award for his commitment and passionate service to his students, and we wish him and his students continued success." 

"Outstanding teachers like John Rosenbaum ignite a passion for learning in their students and bring lessons to life," Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said. "It is clear John has made a tremendous impact on his students and colleagues and I look forward to watching his passion and growth in the years ahead. His innovative practices and dedication will certainly inspire students and help them leap ahead in academic achievement."  

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," the Milken Educator Awards 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. 

Oprah, a longtime education advocate, shared her congratulations to this year's winners in a video message shared earlier this year thanking "the most incredible educators around the country" and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the "tireless work" they do. 

More about John Rosenbaum 

Bringing Learning to Life: Rosenbaum provides his middle schoolers with learning experiences they will remember forever. His sixth grade social studies students use clothespins pressed into clay to write their names in Sumerian using the ancient cuneiform alphabet. They compose and record blues songs about the Great Depression, create trading cards based on research about the Greek gods and act out vignettes about the colonies in front of a green screen. Rosenbaum built a cave in the schoolyard for students to decorate with “cave drawings,” a project that engaged the entire Segue community. When the pandemic interrupted a planned project on ancient Egypt, Rosenbaum led virtual classes from his basement, which he transformed into a mummy-filled tomb. Thanks to Rosenbaum’s hands-on approach to humanities instruction and dedication to cross-curricular content, Segue’s eighth graders outperform the state in literacy and enter high school ready to handle higher-level work with confidence. 

Collaboration is Key: Collaboration is a key to Rosenbaum’s success in the classroom. He works with every department, but concentrates often on literacy strategies with ELA (English language arts) colleagues, including co-teaching writing units, universal reading comprehension strategies, and collaborative assessment and grading. Segue had no official history curriculum, so Rosenbaum sought out resources that bridged social studies and ELA, creating a rigorous curriculum now used by much of the Segue community. He mentors student teachers and has served as grade-level team leader, bringing perpetual positivity and a problem-solving approach to discussions about data and standards-based grading. 

Student Advocate: Quirky, fun, engaging, patient, kind, and unfailingly honest, Rosenbaum advocates for Segue’s students at every turn. He holds evening workshops for families and partners with local organizations like the Jewish Community Center and Rhode Island State Council on the Arts to bring in additional learning opportunities. Beloved by current and former students, Rosenbaum received the ultimate honor: Segue’s eighth graders chose him to be the featured speaker at their commencement ceremony. 

Education: Rosenbaum earned a bachelor’s in 2008 and a master’s in 2011 in history from Rhode Island College. 

More information about Rosenbaum, 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."

Along with the financial prize, Milken Educator Award 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 honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum, 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 (MFFs) mentoring program, in which freshman 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.
  • 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. 
  • Veteran Milken Educators frequently go on to serve in 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 get 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

Press Contact:

Jana Rausch
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