star treatment

Meet the Cherry Creek science teacher who won a major award — and a $25,000 check

Grandview High School science teacher Lisa Rodgers, being hugged by fellow teachers, is stunned to find out that she is the winner of the 2017-2018 Milken Educator Award at Grandview High School on October 31, 2017. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

A Cherry Creek teacher on Tuesday was surprised with a unique award — one that comes with a $25,000, no-strings-attached check.

When Lisa Rodgers heard her name called Tuesday at an all-school assembly in the gym, she said other school staff next to her had to push her out of her chair.

“I thought, I haven’t applied for anything, so why would it be me?” Rodgers said.

Teachers can’t apply for the Milken Educator Award. Teachers are identified through a confidential process. Then a state-appointed panel reviews those who show “student learning results in the classroom and school” and consider that and other factors. The Milken Family Foundation —  founded by the Milken brothers, who had a role in creating the junk-bond market in the 1980s — gives final approval.

Last year, two Colorado teachers received the award, including an elementary teacher in Aurora Public Schools. This year, Rodgers is the sole recipient in the state.

Grandview has almost 2,700 students, about 42 percent of whom are students of color. The school performs above state averages on state tests, graduation rates and other measures.

Rodgers wasn’t planning on becoming a teacher. She said she decided instead to pursue a career working with wildlife, but soon after ended up at Grandview High School attracted by a teaching position for a wildlife course. The course no longer exists, but Rodgers, now in her 13th year of teaching high schoolers science, said she can’t imagine doing anything else.

Lowell Milken, president of the Milken Family Foundation, said at the assembly that society does little to honor or recognize the good work teachers do.

“That never made any sense to me,” he said.

Rodgers will join a team of teachers, all recipients of the same award, in getting access to extra teacher training and resources to help her become an even better teacher.

Rodgers said she was excited, but needed time to process the news, and to research the foundation and the award.

Principal Lisa Sprague said Rodgers stands out because despite the large high school, Rodgers makes time to help all her students as well as her fellow teachers.

Courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation

“She’s truly concerned about every kid,” Sprague said. “She knows every one of her students.”

Walking through the hallways after the award announcement, several students congratulated Rodgers.

Students described Rodgers as a helpful teacher because she guides them when they were stuck on their work.

“What I think is special about my classroom is I try to balance accountability and opportunity,” Rodgers said. “There’s nothing free. You’re going to have to earn it, but I am going to support and love you all the way.”

meet the fellows

Meet the 38 teachers chosen by SCORE to champion education around Tennessee

The year-long fellowships offered by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education were awarded to 38 Tennessee educators.

Six teachers from Memphis have been awarded fellowships that will allow them to spend the next year supporting better education in Tennessee.

The year-long fellowships, offered by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, train and encourage teachers and other educators to speak at events, write publicly about their experiences, and invite policymakers to their classrooms. The program is in its fifth year through the nonpartisan advocacy and research organization, also known as SCORE, which was founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist from Tennessee.

The fellowships, known as the Tennessee Educator Fellowships, have been awarded to 150 educators since the program’s launch in 2014. This year’s class of 38 educators from around the state have a combined 479 years of experience.

“The fellows’ diverse perspectives and experiences are invaluable as they work both inside and outside the classroom and participate in state conversations on preparing all students for postsecondary and workforce success,” SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson said in a news release.

Besides the Shelby County teachers, the group also includes educators who work for the state-run Achievement School District, public Montessori schools, and a school dedicated to serving children with multiple disabilities.

The 2018-19 fellows are:

  • Nathan Bailey, career technical education at Sullivan North High School, Sullivan County Schools
  • Kalisha Bingham-Marshall, seventh-grade math at Bolivar Middle School, Hardeman County Schools
  • Sam Brobeck, eighth-grade math at Memphis Grizzlies Preparatory Charter Middle School. Shelby County Schools
  • Monica Brown, fourth-grade English language arts and social studies at Oakshire Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Nick Brown, school counselor at Westmoreland Elementary School, Sumner County Schools
  • Sherwanda Chism, grades 3-5 English language arts and gifted education at Winridge Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Richard J. Church, grades 7-8 at Liberty Bell Middle School, Johnson City Schools
  • Ada Collins, third grade at J.E. Moss Elementary School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Lynn Cooper,  school counselor at South Pittsburg High School, Marion County Schools
  • Colletta M. Daniels, grades 2-4 special education at Shrine School, Shelby County Schools
  • Brandy Eason, school counselor at Scotts Hill Elementary School, Henderson County Schools
  • Heather Eskridge, school counselor at Walter Hill Elementary School, Rutherford County Schools
  • Klavish Faraj, third-grade math and science at Paragon Mills Elementary School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Mavis Clark Foster, fifth-grade English language arts and science at Green Magnet Academy, Knox County Schools
  • Ranita Glenn, grades 2-5 reading at Hardy Elementary School, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Telena Haneline, first grade at Eaton Elementary School, Loudon County Schools
  • Tenesha Hardin, first grade at West Creek Elementary School, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
  • Thaddeus Higgins, grades 9-12 social studies at Unicoi County High School, Unicoi County Schools
  • Neven Holland, fourth-grade math at Treadwell Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Alicia Hunker, sixth-grade math at Valor Flagship Academy, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Alex Juneau, third grade at John Pittard Elementary School, Murfreesboro City Schools
  • Lyndi King, fifth-grade English language arts at Decatur County Middle School, Decatur County Schools
  • Rebecca Ledebuhr, eighth-grade math at STEM Preparatory Academy, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Aleisha McCallie, fourth-grade math and science at East Brainerd Elementary School, Hamilton County Department of Education.
  • Brian McLaughlin, grades 10-12 math at Morristown-Hamblen High School West, Hamblen County Schools
  • Caitlin Nowell, seventh-grade English language arts at South Doyle Middle School, Knox County Schools
  • Paula Pendergrass, advanced academics resources at Granbery Elementary School,  Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Julie Pepperman, eighth-grade science at Heritage Middle School, Blount County Schools
  • Kelly Piatt, school counselor at Crockett County High School, Crockett County Schools
  • Ontoni Reedy, grades 1-3 at Community Montessori, Jackson-Madison County Schools
  • Tiffany Roberts, algebra and geometry at Lincoln County Ninth Grade Academy, Lincoln County Schools
  • Craig Robinson, grades 3-5 science at Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary, Achievement School District
  • Jen Semanco, 10th- and 11th-grade English language arts at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Amanda Smithfield, librarian at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Cyndi Snapp, fourth-grade math at Carter’s Valley Elementary School, Hawkins County Schools
  • David Sneed, 12th-grade English at Soddy Daisy High School, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Yolanda Parker Williams, fifth-grade math at Karns Elementary School, Knox County Schools
  • Maury Wood II, grades 4-6 technology at Westhills Elementary School, Marshall County Schools

work hard play hard

Memphis teachers share basketball, even if they don’t share a district

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede

Freedom Preparatory Academy is gathering teachers from district-run and charter schools to play basketball. The teachers, mostly black men, have turned it into a networking opportunity as well as a way to let off steam.