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Tech Guru Jennifer Reaves Earns a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Powering a Grade School Paradigm Shift

West Virginia educator arms code warriors of all ages at Mylan Park Elementary in Morgantown

December 11, 2018

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Technology in the classroom can be scary for some, but it becomes scary-good for everyone when implemented by a tech guru like Jennifer Reaves at Morgantown, West Virginia's Mylan Park Elementary School. As the school's dedicated technology integration specialist Reaves helps teachers, staff and students get with the program and the programming—calming the technology jitters in the tech averse while implementing a school-wide coding curriculum. By building a strong coding foundation for budding technologists young and old, Reaves is raising the level of technology literacy at Mylan Park, which in turn is helping students dream of big futures in programming, coding and computer science.

Yet it was Reaves's future that took a turn for the better this morning at a surprise school assembly where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine. A pumped-up Reaves was named a 2018-19 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from West Virginia this year, and is among the up to 40 honorees for 2018-19.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching," has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

Reaves is making that brighter future attainable by helping shift attitudes in tech education at the grass-roots level. She leads professional development for teachers in her building, district and state, helping them integrate technology and coding into their lessons, and co-teaches with each homeroom teacher monthly. Passionate about coding and the career opportunities it opens up, Reaves runs several coding and technology clubs for students and holds certifications from Google, Nearpod, Common Sense Media and Flipgrid. As a former second-grade teacher, her tech ed experience springs from the ground up, so she is able to balance individual needs with a systemic approach that leads to confident students and concrete results.

"Jennifer Reaves understands that technology integration is a key to student achievement and advancement in a future we can barely yet glimpse," said Foley. "Reaves knows firsthand how coding and computer literacy education truly help crack the code of academic and real world success. We are proud to welcome her as a Milken Educator."

"I couldn't be more pleased with Milken's selection of Jennifer Reaves as West Virginia's Milken Award Winner," said Paine. "Ms. Reaves brings such enthusiasm to the classroom and inspires everyone who has the opportunity to meet her. I am confident this is just the beginning of many, many years of innovative, creative and thoughtful teaching by Jennifer, and the Mountain State is lucky to claim her as one of our own."

"It is rewarding to see Jen Reaves receive this award as she is extremely dedicated to the teaching profession and exemplifies what teaching is all about," said Monongalia County Superintendent, Dr. Eddie Campbell. "This is a prestigious recognition, as only 73 educators in West Virginia have received this award since its inception in 1987. I am so thankful to have her working in Monongalia County Schools."

About Milken Educator Jennifer Reaves
Multiple times a week Jennifer Reaves walks the staff at Mylan Park Elementary School in Morgantown, West Virginia, through new technology skills, apps, tools and tricks. The school's first full-time technology integration specialist in more than seven years, Reaves understands that technology integration does not come easily to everyone and adapts her instruction to benefit fellow educators who need more assistance. Patient and always willing to go the extra mile for her colleagues, she has a special knack for building up the technology skills of Mylan Park’s teachers so they, in turn, are equipped to advance the skills of their students. Working with Code.org, Reaves led professional development over the summer to help her colleagues implement a coding curriculum in all classrooms. Student technology literacy at the school is rising, and 20 of its 35 teachers now use tools like Nearpod, Google Classroom and Google Slides during their instruction. Largely because of Reaves, Mylan Park received a large grant from the West Virginia Department of Education to become a Technology Model School.

A former second-grade teacher, Reaves truly understands how technology should be infused into a child's learning from a young age. She studies West Virginia's technology standards and wraps them into the state's overall curriculum standards. Reaves co-teaches monthly with all homeroom teachers. Students in kindergarten and first grade work in a new computer lab, and the school has a one-to-one Chromebook program for older students. Reaves is passionate about coding and the career opportunities it opens up for students. She organized and coordinated a school-wide Hour of Code event, created the Code Like a Girl Club to motivate girls to pursue computer science, and hosts a fifth-grade technology club that helps students use tech in their daily lives. Mylan Park students now aspire to become programmers and talk with excitement about careers in coding and computer science.

Reaves serves on the school leadership team and co-chairs Mylan Park's technology committee, which includes classroom teachers, a special educator, a Title I teacher and administrators. She has presented at the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference and to the state's Board of Education. As a Code.org Computer Science Fundamentals Facilitator, Reaves mentors educators around West Virginia as they implement the Code.org curriculum. She holds certifications from Google, Nearpod, Common Sense Media and Flipgrid. A valued resource for parents, Reaves invites families and community members to school to discuss online safety and promoting good digital citizenship.

Reaves earned a bachelor's degree in advertising in 2007 and master's degrees in reading and elementary education in 2011 from West Virginia University.

More information about Reaves, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/Jennifer-Reaves.

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

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2018-19 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in New Orleans from March 21-24, 2019. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about 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 initiative, which includes powerful professional learning 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 Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are 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 www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards, www.twitter.com/milken, www.youtube.com/milkenaward, and http://instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.

For more information, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 31 years ago 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.

Lynne Russo 
(818) 903-6079 cell; 
lynneerusso@gmail.com


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