University of New Orleans alumna Jennifer Williams has earned a $25,000 Milken Educator Award in recognition of her leadership and outstanding contributions as a teacher. Williams, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, teaches sixth grade English at John Q. Adams Middle School in Metairie.
The 14-year classroom veteran was surprised with the award—described as the “Oscars of Teaching”—during a school assembly Wednesday attended by the Louisiana Education Superintendent John White and Milken Educator Awards founder Lowell Milken.
“Outstanding teachers like Jennifer Williams ignite a passion for learning in their students and create a nurturing environment for them to thrive,” Milken said. “Jennifer's enthusiasm, attention to data and high expectations transfer to her work outside the classroom, where she helps drive the school's instructional program and guides and supports fellow teachers. Her leadership plays an important role in affording all students quality educational opportunities.”
Williams is among a select few educators who will receive the award this year. The Milken Foundation anticipates honoring up to 40 educators nationwide with the annual recognition during the 2019-20 cycle.
The award comes with a $25,000 cash prize that recipients can use however they choose.
The goal of the Milken Educator Awards, described by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” is “to celebrate, elevate and activate the American teaching profession and inspire young, capable people to join it,” according to the Milken Foundation.
Williams was applauded for, among many things, her engaging teaching style. For example, her classroom includes flexible workstations: exercise balls near the computer writing research center, a large carpet where students spread out their materials and work on assignments, and a corner with easy chairs and coffee tables where students collaborate and discuss books and writing projects.
"Teaching and building the foundations of reading ranks among the most essential of our missions," White said. "Louisiana is proud to have an educator like Jennifer Williams who does this in a way that is not only creative but highly effective."
In addition to the prize money, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education, according to the Milken Foundation.
The 2019-20 honorees also will attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis March 26-28, 2020, when they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education.