Home Tri-Town Tri-Town News

Elms Elementary School teacher surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

JACKSON — Elms Elementary School second grade teacher Shaina Brenner has been honored with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award presented by the Milken Family Foundation in recognition of her outstanding and innovative teaching, exceptional leadership and dedication to excellence through professional development.

The award was presented to Brenner during an Oct. 7 assembly at the school at which the educator was surprised with the honor. Brenner was congratulated by cheering students, appreciative colleagues and local dignitaries, according to a press release from the Milken Family Foundation.

Jackson School District Superintendent of Schools Nicole Pormilli said, “This is such an honor for Mrs. Brenner and one that is very much deserved. We are so proud of the work she does with her students and the passion she brings with her every day. This award shines a wonderful light on all the amazing ways our educators are reaching students and truly connecting with them.”

Brenner said she did not know the exact reason why the assembly was being held and said the announcement of the award “was a big surprise when it came my way.”

Speaking about the job educators do on a daily basis, Brenner said, “I’m just one. So many educators wake up every morning giving their best, working after hours, working on weekends … always that teacher brain never turns off. … This (award) is important because it acknowledges that hard work … and so often that doesn’t happen.”

“Shaina Brenner personifies the qualities of a Milken Educator. She prioritizes her students’ needs and develops creative strategies to engage and prepare them for success in our rapidly changing world,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator.

“Her dedication to improving the lives of her students, her passion for her community and her proven track record of leadership are just some of the many reasons she was honored today. I look forward to the contributions she will provide to our national Milken Educator Network,” Foley said.

The awards will honor up to 40 elementary educators in the 2022-23 school year. Over the past 35 years, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers, according to the press release.

According to the Milken Family Foundation, “Brenner’s passion for the environment and conservation provides a unique opportunity for her students, where she spearheaded a new recycling initiative, acquired recycling bins for every classroom and created signs to show which materials can and cannot be recycled.

“Her creation of the student Green Team focused on improving the school’s environmental policies, including gardening, recycling and conservation. The team promotes classroom audits, leads school-wide energy contests and provides training, tools and resources to help students bring conversations about energy conservation home to their families.

“Students compost food scraps, contribute to a food sharing table and donate to a local food pantry, including produce grown in the school’s 500-gallon aquaponic garden.

“Due in part to Brenner’s dedication to environment projects, the U.S. Department of Education named the school a National Green Ribbon School on Earth Day 2022, the only New Jersey school to receive the honor and the first in the country.

“Brenner has helped add green topics to the curriculum, including water conservation, beach erosion and the importance of pollinators,” the foundation said.

The Milken Family Foundation went on to say, “Brenner goes to great lengths to create an accurate picture of each child’s strengths and areas for improvement. She provides students with a rubric and individualized checklist with expectations for each unit.

“Brenner looks for opportunities to connect learners to the world around them. She started a postcard exchange with 49 second grade classrooms across the country, representing every state.

“Each postcard students receive becomes a cross-content lesson as the class discusses interesting facts about the writer’s state, including symbols, location, customs, food and slogan.

“Brenner’s second-graders thrive: For the past three years, 70% of her class ended the year reading above grade level, with 90% showing mastery of state math standards,” the foundation said.

According to the Milken Family Foundation, “(Brenner) has led professional development for K-2 teachers in the district on high frequency word instruction based on orthographic mapping.

“Brenner promotes cultural understanding in her classroom, as well as at school-wide events where families celebrate and learn about the school community’s many cultures and traditions.

“The much-loved bulletin board displays she created to celebrate her school’s history and staff members are complete with newspaper clippings, historical artifacts, photos, quotes and trivia,” the foundation said.

Brenner earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Rutgers University in 2007.

According to the press release, the honorees will attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.

The $25,000 cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For example, some have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children, according to the press release.

Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, New Jersey’s acting commissioner of education, said, “The Department of Education congratulates Ms. Brenner on this outstanding career achievement. Her zest for teaching and understanding of the learning needs of each child is a gift to her students and an inspiration to fellow educators.”

Exit mobile version