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Wheeling's Singing Principal Makes Madison Elementary "Stronger Together" Through Music

Andrea Trio named among America's best educators with $25,000 Milken Award

November 03, 2022

Wheeling, W.Va. — When Madison Elementary's principal, Andrea Trio, walks through the halls singing with her students, it's more than a performance – it's a way to use music and other social-emotional behavioral tools to calm her young Cougars. And today, Principal Trio's creative efforts as a leader in her school and community earned her the Award of a lifetime – an unrestricted, individual $25,000 cash prize and the Milken Educator Award, one of the nation's highest achievements in education, presented by the Milken Family Foundation

The Awards will honor up to 40 elementary educators in the 2022-23 school year. Over the past 35 years, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers.  

"Principal Trio embodies the qualities of a Milken Educator. She is innovative in her work, a proven leader in her school and community, and cares for each and every young learner in her school," said Stephanie Bishop, vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 2001 Virginia Milken Educator. "Madison Elementary's motto is 'Stronger Together,' and through Principal Trio's leadership, they are! Congratulations; We are thrilled to honor you today." 

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year's winners' list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced. 

"It is with great pride that I welcome Ms. Trio to West Virginia's strong legacy of Milken Educator ranks," said State Superintendent of Schools and 1993 West Virginia Milken Educator David L. Roach. "While this Award reflects her commitment as an instructional leader to her students, her community offers the best testament of her work and her love for and belief in her students. Ms. Trio understands the importance of caring for the whole child, and her school and community carry out that vision each day. She and her team have ensured that the effective instructional practices include academic, behavioral and mental health support. Even before the pandemic, she had created and implemented a model that addressed the heightened needs and behaviors schools were seeing increasingly across the nation. I applaud her for leading under the motto of 'Stronger Together,' and with the love she has for her children as reflected in the work ongoing at Madison Elementary." 

More About Andrea Trio 

Implements Innovative Academic and Social-Emotional Learning Practices: Everything Principal Trio does centers around one key question: What is best for the students? Trio helps her staff create effective instructional practices by focusing on the whole child with a tiered system of academic, behavioral and mental health services. This is especially important for Madison's high-need, highly transient community, where three-quarters of students live in poverty, a quarter have special needs, and many experience instability and trauma at home. Trio keeps personalized data about each student, updating it as they move from grade to grade, to provide supports and collaborate with middle school administrators. Instead of traditional exclusionary disciplinary practices like detention and suspension, Trio focuses on finding gaps and building skills with social-emotional learning strategies. Each classroom has a de-escalation space with materials to help students self-regulate, with trained "Cougar Care Team" staff members ready to step in if more help is needed. Trio has shared this innovative approach to discipline with other administrators in the district, reminding them that "suspension is no intervention." 

Establishes Creative Community Partnerships: Trio has built strong partnerships with local organizations on Wheeling Island and throughout the region. At this year's annual back-to-school event, 20 community partners provided students with school supplies and prizes. Sorority sisters from a nearby college and volunteers from local nonprofits mentor Madison students, interacting with both children and families. Madison's outdoor play area used to consist of an asphalt lot surrounded by a chain link fence. Yet Trio envisioned a sustainable outdoor learning environment incorporating activities to boost academics, community building, conflict resolution and social skills. Working with the House of the Carpenter, a nondenominational nonprofit in Wheeling, Trio raised $250,000 to build a new "Cougars on the Move" playground, now the pride of the school. When the pandemic closed school buildings in 2020, Trio established a remote learning center where at-risk students could get meals, internet access, tutoring and support services. Before Christmas that year, she put together gift bags with mugs, hot chocolate mix and books; staff delivered the packages, taking the opportunity to perform wellness checks on students. 

Helps Make Madison “Stronger Together” Through Music: A former music educator, Trio often sings with students, providing calming moments in the children's often-chaotic lives. She builds genuine, trusting relationships with families and adeptly communicates with families of all backgrounds. Trio's focus on the whole child sets Madison students up for success. She keeps track of graduates and checks in on them as they move to middle school and beyond, inviting them back to Madison as role models when they graduate from high school. Madison’s motto is "Stronger Together," a fitting description of the ties Trio builds among students, families, staff and the larger community. 

Education: Trio earned a bachelor's in music education in 2005 from West Virginia University and a master's in educational leadership in 2014 from Hood College.

More About the Milken Educator Awards: "The future belongs to the educated."

Along with the financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,900 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education. 

  • The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. 
  • In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFF) mentoring program, in which new Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice. 
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 
  • "We find you. You don't find us!" Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation. 
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.   

To receive regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the Award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward). 

For more information, visit or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772. 

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 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. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at