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St. Lucie County, Florida, Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Milken Award

Fourth-Grade Instructor Nardi Routten Wins “Oscar of Teaching”
for Leadership in Motivating Student Progress at All Levels

January 09, 2015

SANTA MONICA, CA—Nardi Routten, a fourth-grade teacher at Frances K. Sweet Elementary in Fort Pierce, Florida, today became the state’s sole Milken Educator Award winner for the 2014-15 school year. Florida First Lady Ann Scott and State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart joined Milken Educator Awards senior vice president Dr. Jane Foley for a surprise presentation of the award at the school.

Routten is one of up to 40 recipients across the country this school year who will be receiving the honor. The Milken Educator Award recognizes exemplary elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

“A great teacher can set a student on a path for success both now and in the future,” said First Lady Ann Scott. “I’ve met countless caring and dedicated professionals in classrooms throughout the state who have made a lasting impact on the students in their communities. Ms. Routten is a shining example of the kind of teacher every parent hopes for and every student remembers fondly.”

“Honoring Florida's outstanding educators is one of my greatest privileges,” added Commissioner Pam Stewart. “Our future leaders, innovators and workforce are sitting in classrooms throughout the state, gaining the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college, career and life. Because of the great work of Ms. Routten and others like her, Florida will continue to be a national leader in education.”

Routten is the kind of teacher who does not allow her fourth-grade students to receive a failing grade. Rather, she will reinforce the lesson—before, after school and on the weekends—until the student has mastered the subject matter and ends up feeling a real sense of accomplishment. She exhibits an ideal combination of dedication, deep knowledge and genuine caring that marks her as a model educator.

In the classroom, Routten typically has students with a wide range of aptitudes. About one-quarter of them are special education students. Even with this challenge, Routten’s classes routinely score among the highest in her school and district. Seventy percent of students achieve a 3 (satisfactory) or better on a five-point scale in both Reading and Math on the FCAT 2.0, and 82% achieve a 3.5 or better in Writing. At the beginning of the school year, Routten helps her students set and stay on track with personal goals. Parents request to have their children placed in her classroom because they know she will be able to meet their child’s specific needs.

Routten’s impact extends beyond the classroom with her role as the fourth-grade team leader, membership on  the reading, math and science committees and service to the school advisory council and PTA. 

Routten models being a lifelong learner. She is National Board Certified and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in reading at Florida Atlantic University. She has participated in professional development in many areas and willingly shares her newfound knowledge and strategies with fellow teachers. Routten is a leader in helping her school implement the latest evaluation models for effective teaching, and is a sought-after presenter and collaborator throughout the district. In fact, district officials will often record her classroom teaching sessions to showcase at school improvement meetings districtwide.  

Routten is known to provide an encouraging environment where students can feel like superstars. A favorite activity in her class is the year-end celebration, when parents and community members view a DVD Routten creates to highlight the accomplishments of each student. Although designed to recognize student performance, what comes through in this moving annual tribute is how hard Routten works to ensure her students’ success.

“St. Lucie Public Schools is home to high-quality educators, and having Nardi Routten, a phenomenal teacher leader, represent the District as a recipient of this esteemed award is tremendous,” said Genelle Yost, superintendent of St. Lucie Public Schools. “Ms. Routten is a well-respected and involved teacher whose passion for helping each of her students achieve at the highest possible level is equal to her passion for collaborating with and supporting her fellow professional educators. She is a tribute to caring educators everywhere.”

Along with the recognition typically bestowed to recipients, Routten now belongs to a network of more than 2,600 K–12 teachers, principals and specialists from around the country.

“I am delighted to welcome Nardi Routten into the Milken Educator Network, and look forward to her contributions,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Milken Educator Award recipient from Indiana. “Ms. Routten is dedicated to maximizing a student’s potential at the classroom, school and district levels. Her commitment, care and compassion are reflected in the solid achievement results of her students and the high demand to observe her in action.” 

For photos and video of Routten receiving her Milken Educator Award, visit

The Milken Family Foundation first presented the Milken Educator Awards in 1987. Since that time, it has become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program and was dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine. Recipients can use their $25,000 award in any way they choose. More than $137 million in funding, including over $65 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. 

In Florida, 40 recipients have been presented with the Milken Educator Award since the program began there in 1998.

Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Awards are sourced through each participating state department of education, which appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to confidentially review candidates for recommendation to MFF. Past recipients have used their Awards to finance 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 notifications, follow the #TeachForTheStars and #MilkenAward hashtags on Twitter and Instagram.

For information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4775.  Like the Awards at, follow us at, watch the reaction videos at and find us on  

The Milken Educator Awards program, created by the Milken Family Foundation, was launched 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.

Press Contact:

Jana Rausch
Communications Director
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