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The 2016-17 Tennessee Milken Educator Award and $25,000 Go To … Katelyn Baker of Hamilton County!

Battle Academy third-grade "team lead" guides students to continuous high growth

March 07, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Katelyn Baker may manage a highly organized third-grade classroom at Battle Academy in Chattanooga, but nothing could have prepared her for the surprise she received during an all-school assembly today. Halfway through what was billed as a visit from Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen to commend the school's dedication to student learning, attention was turned to another accolade in store: a Milken Educator Award for Baker, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize.

Baker is the only Milken Educator Award recipient for Tennessee, and the 33rd and final honoree named nationwide for 2016-17. This season marks the 30th year of the Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching."

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley presented the recognition to Baker, alongside McQueen and Hamilton County Department of Education Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly.

"Early in her career, Katelyn Baker has established herself as an effective and compassionate teacher leader and mentor," said Foley, who is also a Milken Educator (IN '94). "She tailors instruction to meet her students' needs, shares successful strategies with colleagues, builds relationships with parents and plays an important role in moving the whole school forward. I look forward to following Katelyn's exciting future in the teaching profession."

"Early grade educators provide our students a strong foundation from which they can grow into lifelong learners, and Katelyn Baker is working every day to help her students get there," McQueen said. "She is an exceptional educator who has gone above and beyond to support and encourage each student in her classroom, and I am proud to recognize her with this award."

Along with reading, math, science and social studies, Katelyn Baker's third-graders learn another very important skill: how to critique each other's work. Baker acts as the facilitator as students share their work in front of the class, then listen as their peers offer both compliments and respectfully deliver suggestions for improvement. Calm, quiet and strong, Baker creates a safe environment in her classroom where students know they can trust her and each other.

Known as a skilled differentiator, Baker provides students menus from which they can choose their activities and offers multiple assessment options and exit tasks. Under her guidance and careful management, students work independently, stay organized and engaged, and self-assess their learning continuously. As a result, Baker's students at all learning levels show consistently high growth.

Hamilton County Department of Education Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly says he is honored the Milken Family Foundation has noticed the exceptional education efforts in Hamilton County. "We could not be more thrilled about this announcement," he said. "We put an emphasis on great teachers, great leaders here in Hamilton County. It is gratifying the Milken Educator Award is acknowledging our efforts on the national stage."

As the third-grade team lead, Baker plays a key role in the school's efforts to foster teacher leadership. She represents her grade level at school meetings and oversees the grade's day-to-day operations. Baker also leads team planning each week for her grade level and provides feedback on lesson content and pacing. Baker serves on the school leadership team and has worked on committees that focus on arts integration, Socratic seminars, and multiple intelligences. As the school's literacy support representative, Baker is responsible for sharing key literacy information from the district with her school. She leads best practices sessions for intermediate teachers and mentors student teachers from local universities.

Baker's communications skills are an asset in forging relationships with parents; she goes beyond conferences and open houses to connect with them. At the beginning of the year she asks parents to write a letter about their children, sharing how they work best and where they may need help. Baker solicits information about parents' strengths, skills, and interests to find ways to include them in classroom activities.

Baker earned both a Bachelor of Science in early childhood education and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2010.

More information about Baker, 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. Besides the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Baker'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.