VINTON–Representatives from the Milken Family Foundation have been traveling the country for the past several weeks, surprising educators with Milken Educator Awards, often described as the “Oscar” of teaching and “the preeminent teacher recognition program.” Only 35 teachers will be recognized this year in the United States and just one in Virginia. That “one” is Lindsay Seiler Murray who teaches fourth grade at W.E. Cundiff Elementary School in Vinton.
On December 7, Murray was recognized with the Milken award at a surprise assembly attended by the entire school, representatives from Central Office and the School Board, the Town of Vinton, and Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Steven R. Staples. The award was presented by Dr. Staples and Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley.
The award is accompanied by a $25,000 grant which the Milken recipient may use for absolutely anything, with no restrictions.
“Science, technology, and engineering are tools that unlock a student’s mind and future,” said Foley. “Lindsay Murray recognizes this important responsibility and inspires her students every day to develop the skills they need to help build the world and the life they want—no matter what challenges they may face.”
“Lindsay is a classroom teacher who challenges her students to be problem solvers and to excel in all of their subjects,” Staples said. “She has been recognized by her peers as an exceptional educator and as a leader since the beginning of her teaching career.”
The Milken Educator Awards were established over 30 years ago. They target early-to-mid career education professionals for their “already impressive achievements and, more significantly, for the promise of what they will accomplish in the future.”
The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. The foundation says that many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.
Thus far, more than 2,700 awards have been given, totaling $68 million. In addition to the award, Milken Educators “are given access to powerful networking and development tools throughout their careers in education.”
According to the foundation, “Recipients are caught by surprise when their names are announced at emotional all-school assemblies in front of cheering students, proud colleagues, distinguished officials and the media. The awards are about bringing attention to these classroom heroes; serving at once as validation, motivation and inspiration to current and future quality educators. The message: We recognize you. We value you. We thank you.”
The 2016-17 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum this spring in New Orleans where they “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.”
The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards have no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are discovered through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by panels appointed by state departments of education. Final approval comes from the Milken Family Foundation.
Speaking of the award program Lowell Milken said he and his brother Mike “established the Milken Family Foundation with a genuine sense of gratitude for our own gifts in life and a responsibility for those less fortunate; twin ideals imparted by our parents, Bernard and Ferne Milken. Our idealism about the possibilities for sweeping change and improvement remains. We realize, that it is critical to focus on those efforts with the potential to effect positive long-term advances for individuals and their communities. Our personal, professional and philanthropic experience has demonstrated the most fertile grounds for helping people help themselves are education and medical research.”
“Education is at the heart of nearly everything we value as individuals, as citizens and as productive human beings,” he noted. “Whether focused on early childhood education or the effective use of technology in the classroom, a common truth has underscored each—the undisputed importance of talented teachers.”
Their goal is an America in which every child, every day, is taught by effective educators.
The criteria for the Milken Educator Award include “exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school, and exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession.
The goals of the Milken Educator Awards are to “honor and reward outstanding K-12 educators for the quality of their teaching, their professional leadership, their engagement with families and the community, and their potential for even greater contributions to the healthy development of children and focus public attention on the importance of excellent educators. The visibility and reputation of a Milken Educator Award results in unlimited opportunities for educators to improve education at local, state, national, and even international levels.”
Lindsay Murray is in her eighth year in education—her first year spent in Franklin County followed by seven as a teacher at W. E. Cundiff. She is originally from Roanoke County and graduated from Hidden Valley High School. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in math and science and her Master of Arts and Teaching in Elementary Education from James Madison University.
On the WEC website, Murray says, “I am so blessed and extremely grateful to be teacher. It truly is my dream job!”
The Milken foundation says “Lindsay Murray encourages her fourth-grade students to become productive problem-solvers. At W.E. Cundiff Elementary School, a Title I school, Murray was instrumental in the implementation of the Virginia Children’s Engineering program, now part of the curriculum throughout the region’s elementary schools. She blends STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) with project-based learning to meet the requirements of the state standards and has launched several student research projects to encourage more hands-on learning.”
“Murray holds her students to high standards, challenging them to succeed in all academic areas and giving them the tools to do so. Whether for enrichment or remediation, Murray’s instruction is timely and specific to each child’s needs—an important skill set in a school where mainstreamed special education students make up about 16 percent of the overall school population. Murray’s influence is reflected in the school’s assessments: Students surpass state SOL’s in both math and reading, with Murray’s students scoring 10-15 percent higher than school averages. Still, Murray makes it clear to students, families, and colleagues that she considers test scores only one indicator of success. She aims to inspire students to become lifelong learners and motivates other educators to do the same.”
“Murray has presented at the state level on teaching engineering and science to children and serves on the district’s STEM committees, the Alternative Assessment Development Committee, the Committee for Creating Third Grade Alternate Science Assessment, the Math Curriculum Writing Committee, and the Community Advisory Committee. At the school level, she has served as her grade-level chair since 2012, is the school’s science representative, and represents the faculty in the school’s PTA. A skilled relationship-builder, Murray provides parents with regular updates and invites them to get involved in classroom activities.”