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Math and Science Teacher Tiffany Tynes Curry of Columbus, Ohio, Receives Milken Educator Award Plus $25,000 Cash Prize

Getting Students to "Think about Thinking" Adds Up to Self-Confidence 

January 24, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The third-graders in Tiffany Tynes Curry's class at Weinland Park Elementary School aren't just learning math:  They are mathematicians who develop their own math theories. Mrs. Tynes Curry creates a culture of successful learning in her classroom where children believe in their abilities to think, consult and resolve their coursework with skills they can build upon. She prepares them with the "what" and "why" so students can evaluate "how" their next steps create solutions.

But there was no preparing for today's reaction at a morning assembly when Tynes Curry was surprised with the prestigious Milken Educator Award for her contributions to the personal development of students and teachers alike. The honor comes with a $25,000 cash prize for her to use as she chooses.

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo A. DeMaria and Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Good presented the Award to Tynes Curry. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Ohio this year, and the first from Columbus City Schools since 2002. Tynes Curry is among up to 35 honorees who will receive this national recognition for 2016-17.

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

"As a teacher and school improvement specialist, Tiffany Tynes Curry bridges the gap between student learning and teacher professional growth," said Dr. Jane Foley, Milken Educator Awards senior vice president and a Milken Educator (IN '94). "Tiffany understands that refining adult practices directly benefits student progress, and strategically develops instruction to meet the needs of each student. Forethought and self-reflection empower children to take ownership of their learning, which in turn, strengthens their self-confidence in and out of the classroom." 

Tynes Curry's students thrive under her tutelage at Weinland Park, a pre-K through fifth-grade school in Columbus, serving a largely African-American student body, where 86% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Working proactively to align with Ohio's changing assessments, her students earn two years' worth of growth by year's end.

"I believe teachers are our most important educational asset and that we all should work to create the conditions they need to be successful," said DeMaria. "Mrs. Tynes Curry should inspire us, because she has consistently succeeded with her students through creative, innovative thinking; deep personal commitment and the backing of a school that wants its students and teachers to achieve their highest dreams.”

"Mrs. Tynes Curry is an exemplary model of the educator Columbus City Schools is proud to call one of our own," said Good. "Her excellent standard of creating a student-centered, innovative learning environment inspires that 'Spirit of Success' among our children to reach their full potential. This Award is well-deserved." 

Walk into Tynes Curry's classroom and you'll see students developing their own mathematical theories to solve problems, working with manipulatives, cogently explaining their mathematical reasoning, presenting their methodologies to the class, and both questioning and being questioned by their peers. Tynes Curry teaches the whole child: She pairs her third-graders with a pre-K class, giving the older children the opportunity to exercise both academic and social leadership skills. She creates deep, trusting connections with each student, often sharing pizza lunches with small groups in her classroom.

Weinland Park's fourth-graders turn in the highest performance in the division cohort for math and science, a result in large part due to the foundation Tynes Curry lays the previous year. She relies heavily on data to understand exactly where each student sits on the learning continuum.

Tynes Curry is as passionate about teaching teachers as students. Prior to Weinland Park, she was a full-time teacher coach as a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for Columbus City Schools, developing teachers in math and focusing on school improvement. She coordinated "Intervention Fridays," an opportunity for students to have conversations with faculty about academic struggles, including understanding the materials and goals of a given lesson. Tynes Curry also developed after-school workshops about the Ohio Improvement Process, in which teachers learned how to use data to inform their instructional practices.

A respected teacher leader in the school and district, Tynes Curry sits on Weinland Park's Building Leadership Team and the district's School Improvement Team. She is responsible for monitoring teacher-based teams and coaching colleagues, participates in Ohio State University's ASPIRE program to support new educators, and provides both districtwide and statewide professional development. Tynes Curry conceived and implemented the Critical Friends network at Weinland Park to encourage discussion, dismantle isolated teaching practices and share best practices. She also created "Chat and Chew," offering professional development opportunities in the staff lounge during teachers' breaks. She is known for her ability to gain the attention of her audience and lead productive discussions.

Tiffany Tynes Curry earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Wittenberg University in 2001 and a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from Ashland University in 2006. She is working toward her Doctorate of Education in teacher leadership at Walden University.

More information about Tynes Curry, 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, Tynes Curry'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.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2016-17 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum, March 23-25, 2017, 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 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.