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Surprise! St. Bernard Parish Teacher Catherine Randall Earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Davies Elementary third-grade teacher helps lead students—and teachers—to mastery

October 24, 2016

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — An ordinary assembly turned extraordinary today when Joseph J. Davies Elementary School teacher Catherine Randall was surprised with a national Milken Educator Award—and a no-strings-attached $25,000 cash prize—before cheering students, respected colleagues, distinguished officials and the media. The third-grade teacher is among only 35 educators who will receive the recognition during the 2016-17 school year.

This season marks the 30th year of the Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching."

Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken presented the Award, joined by Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White and St. Bernard Parish School District Superintendent Doris Voitier.

Randall played an essential role in the rebuilding of the school and community after Hurricane Katrina.

"Catherine Randall's unwavering dedication to her students and school have resulted in outstanding and sustained academic gains," said Lowell Milken. "What's more, her leadership and contributions at the district level have broadened her impact on teachers and students and strengthened the community as a whole. I am confident that Catherine will take Davies Elementary and St. Bernard Parish to even greater heights."

"The success Catherine has experienced in her classroom is remarkable; she is very deserving of this award," said Superintendent White. "Her commitment to her school and students, especially after Hurricane Katrina, is inspiring, and I hope will motivate other teachers in our state to keep pursuing high expectations for our students."

In 2005, 10 days into Catherine Randall's third year teaching in St. Bernard Parish, Hurricane Katrina decimated Joseph J. Davies Elementary, most of St. Bernard Parish, and Randall's own home. Though she lost both her job and her home overnight, Randall rejoined the district as soon as possible to help rebuild the school system from the ground up, working alongside colleagues who were teaching 50 or more students in classrooms housed in used trailers in a parking lot. Randall's selfless dedication to students was an integral part of the school's rebound after the natural disaster. Davies, a Title I school with 70% of its families living in poverty, carries an A rating and is a National Blue Ribbon School.

Randall's third-grade students post equally impressive scores. In the 2015 PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments, 100% reached Advanced or Mastery in mathematics, and 97% reached Advanced or Mastery in reading. She willingly takes on student teachers, and teachers are often asked to observe her in action.

Randall engages students in the classroom by making learning relevant and enjoyable, and motivating students to surpass previous goals. She uses a variety of differentiated instructional methods, including close reading strategies, exit tickets, "Think-Pair-Share," graphic organizers, talk moves and annotation. She nurtures her relationship with students and families by providing ongoing feedback about students' performance. Randall teaches the whole child, focusing on academic advancement and social and emotional growth. A master at capturing "teachable moments," Randall often incorporates discussions about bullying or other challenges into her lessons.

Randall became the district's curriculum coordinator in 2008-09; she excelled in the position, but her heart was in the classroom. At the end of the year she returned to the third grade, telling the district that she felt she would make a bigger contribution by practicing her craft, testing best practices, developing effective interventions and providing frontline input into district decisions.

Teachers and administrators consider Randall a "go-to" person for elementary school policy, practices and procedures. She sits on the district's math curriculum team, serves as Davies' public information liaison, and mentors candidates for the district's alternate certification program. In the new position of third-grade teacher leader, Randall will guide the third-grade team as members work to internalize the curriculum and practices in each classroom and take responsibility, as a group, for the academic success of students. She serves on the school's Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) team, data team, and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).

Randall presents strategy workshops for professional development sessions within the district each year and leads the third-grade curriculum cadre, which meets after hours to examine assessments. She is one of two teachers on the district's five-year long-range strategic planning committee.

Randall is a graduate of Our Lady of Holy Cross College. She earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education in 2003 and a Master of Education in 2008. She currently serves there as an adjunct professor of education.

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

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, Randall's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top principals, teachers and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

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 their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded 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. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at,,, and

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit or call 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.