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Surpassing Expectations: Rogers Fourth-Grade Teacher Kara Davis Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Davis from Joe Mathias Elementary receives Award during surprise all-school assembly

November 18, 2016

Santa Monica, Calif.  Science- and technology-savvy teacher Kara Davis couldn't ever have computed her good fortune in advance when she was surprised by a school assembly at Joe Mathias Elementary School in Rogers, Arkansas in her honor. That's where the fourth-grade teacher learned she had won a prestigious Milken Educator Award, recognizing her commitment to her students, her colleagues and the community.  

Davis is the newest recipient of the $25,000 cash award, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching." This 2016-17 season marks the 30th anniversary of the Awards.

Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key joined the Milken Family Foundation (MFF) to bestow the Award upon Davis. Representing MFF was Arkansas 2001 Milken Educator Dr. Gary Stark, who now serves as CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.

"Kara Davis demonstrates why teachers are the most important school-related factor influencing students' academic achievement," said Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. "Kara engages her students in real-world learning by incorporating technology and using real-time data as her guide. In turn, students have boosted their test scores and refined their critical thinking skills crucial to succeeding in a global economy. Equally impressive are the relationships that Kara has developed as a mentor to fellow faculty."

"Arkansas's dedicated educators are entrusted with our most precious resource – our children," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. "Ms. Kara Davis serves as a shining example of how integral these educators are to the success of our students. I am delighted that the Milken Family Foundation has recognized the outstanding work and achievements of Ms. Davis, and I am confident that she will continue to have a lasting effect on our students and her fellow teachers for years to come."

"Ms. Davis is a perfect example of excellence in education," Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key said. "From her focus on STEM activities and exceptional use of technology in the classroom to the leadership she shows among her peers at her school, Ms. Davis is helping transform Arkansas to lead the nation in student-focused education. I congratulate her on her success and this very special honor."

"Kara is an exceptional teacher," Dr. Marlin Berry, Rogers Public Schools superintendent, said. "She helps students achieve through her many skills and teaching tools. She is very hands-on in their learning, incorporates STEM activities throughout the curriculum, utilizes digital formats and involves them through project-based learning. She's more than a team player in the building, as Kara is involved with mentoring and helping others. She helps to make Joe Mathias Elementary a wonderful place for kids."

Davis sets high standards for her students—and for herself—showing a knack for helping students exceed their own expectations. During a recent project-based learning effort, Davis had students explore congestion problems in the school parking lot. The children turned their budding research skills on their parents, documenting the adults' undisciplined parking and driving habits. The students then honed their communication skills, presenting parents with their findings and suggesting solutions to improve traffic flow.

A strong advocate for technology in the classroom, Davis led a successful fundraising campaign to bring one-to-one computing to her students. Davis' classroom now serves as a district model for technology integration, and she is involved in a new initiative to revise the school's science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum. Assessment scores for Mathias, a high-need school where 83% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, rival the state averages, and students have shown significant growth in both literacy and writing.

Known as a data-driven educator, Davis keeps abreast of the latest research and eagerly implements creative tech concepts and approaches into her classroom. She has served on school and district curriculum committees, leads her grade-level team and even developed an app to track lunch and attendance.

Davis' teaching skills extend to her colleagues as well. She created a class for Mathias' first-year teachers to help them with school policies and procedures, lesson planning and preparation for conferences and evaluations. She also serves on Mathias' parent advisory committee and has facilitated kindergarten parent training.

In addition, she is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of educators as an ambassador for TEACH, a group that recruits students into the teaching profession.

Davis is National Board Certified. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary and early childhood education in 2004 from Central Washington State University and a Master of Arts in educational theory and practice in 2016 from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro.

To learn more about Davis and to view photos and a video from today's Award assembly, visit

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, Davis' 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, 2016-17 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum this spring in New Orleans. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about the importance of 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 program, 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 Awards has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then 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 to further their own professional development. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

Regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events are shared on MFF social media profiles at,,, and using the #MilkenAward hashtag. Details are also available on the Awards homepage at or can be obtained by calling MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, is in its 30th year. 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;
Jana Rausch
Director of Media and Public Affairs
310-570-4774 Office 310-435-9259 Cell