In a surprise announcement, eighth-grade teacher Brooke Lee received the national Milken Educator Award at an all-school assembly at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister was joined by Gov. Kevin Stitt and Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Jane Foley in presenting the prestigious award, which comes with $25,000.
“The impact Brooke has made on students and families is nothing short of extraordinary. We are so proud to have her represent Oklahoma on the national stage,” Hofmeister said. “Brooke creates an environment where her students feel safe, valued and connected, while inspiring her fellow educators to discover innovative, evidence-based strategies that bolster student outcomes.”
Lee, an English language arts teacher, is known for providing experiences to engage her students’ individual interests and using a multitude of learning strategies to meet the needs of a diverse set of learners. Last year, nearly half of Lee’s students showed an average increase of at least two years of academic growth.
“Every child in Oklahoma deserves to be inspired by the very power of education itself and the potential of a bright future, and Oklahoma’s teachers help to make this possible each day,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt. “They invest in children from all walks of life and ultimately leave an impact that extends far beyond the walls of our schools. Oklahoma is proud of Brooke Lee as she sets the standard for exceptional teaching and helps to make our shared vision of a Top Ten education system possible.”
A teacher of six years, Lee did not know she was being considered for an award. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Oklahoma this year and is among up to 40 honorees nationally for 2019-20. The award recognizes early to mid-career educators for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.
“Brooke Lee knows that the gift of language is incredibly important for her students and is able to craft her lessons to meet individual needs,” Foley said. “Brooke’s commitment to each child’s growth and her creative yet empirically grounded approach to teaching is the kind of inspirational leadership we seek in Milken Educators.”
Lee leads professional development, mentors incoming and career teachers, hosts pre-service educators and chairs the English department at Will Rogers. After Claremore Public Schools committed to becoming a Great Expectations model district, Lee was chosen to become a Great Expectations instructor for her colleagues. Recognized as a leader in the district, Lee was asked to join the district team in planning a new state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) facility after the passage of a $50 million bond.
“Mrs. Lee believes that education is the equalizer for all students and that relationships are the foundation of student learning,” said Bryan Frazier, superintendent of Claremore Public Schools. “She is not only an outstanding, caring teacher to students, but she is also a teacher leader actively involved in collaborative learning with staff. It’s fitting that the Milken Educator Award is considered the Oscars of Teaching because she is a true superstar in our school and our community.”
Lee is also actively engaged in her community. She works with Rogers County Youth Services to bring programs into the school for students facing social and economic challenges.
In addition to the $25,000 prize, 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. Lee will attend a Milken Educator Forum in March in Indianapolis, where Milken Educators will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education.
The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. 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.”
For more information, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org. To follow the awards on social media, use the #MilkenAward hashtag or visit www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards, www.twitter.com/milken, www.youtube.com/milkenaward and http://instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.
Photos courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation.