Yesterday, in a surprise announcement, Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School teacher Kena Allison won the Milken Educator Award along with $25,000. Milken Family Foundation Co-Founder Mike Milken was on hand to present the honor which has been given to almost 2,600 individuals since 1987 as a way to recognize outstanding instructors. The prize, called the "Oscar of Teaching" by Time Magazine, has been funded by more than $136 million by the Foundation since its creation.
Ms. Allison, a physics teacher and instructional specialist, received the award in front of acting State Superintendent of Education Jesus Aquirre, Deputy Mayor of Education Abigail Smith, D.C. Councilman and education committee chairman David Catania, D.C. Public Charter School Board member Don Soifer, and 400 adoring and cheering Thurgood Marshall students gathered to celebrate the school's designation as a reward educational institution by OSSE.
As Mr. Soifer mentioned to me last night just being a high school physics teacher is enough to be given an award. But this professional is well respected within her field. One of her peers describes Ms. Allison as "irreplaceable." She is known to teach her subject matter using rap songs and games, and explains the laws of physics through students' favorite sports. Interestingly, the Thurgood Marshall Teacher started as a pre-med student before deciding to help others through teaching. I too was once a pre-med student but realized that my real calling was as a blogger.
Ms. Allison is not just an amazing teacher. She is a department chair that drives professional development. Her work earned her a Harvard University Fellowship for Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness in High Schools.
In 2011 I interviewed then Thurgood Marshall Academy executive director Josh Kern about the fine work being done at this school. The Washington Post's Emma Brown points out that Ms. Allison developed a mentoring program for freshmen entering the school. Unfortunately, many students come to Thurgood Marshall years behind grade level in math and reading.
Congratulations to Kena Allison. You make our movement proud.