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Phoenix charter school teacher receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award


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  • Jana Rausch/Milken Family Foundation

Shalini Sharma

Shalini Sharma, a fifth-grade teacher at Friendly House Academia del Pueblo in Phoenix, Arizona, was completely caught off-guard when she was presented with the prestigious Milken Educator Award—and a $25,000 cash prize—before a schoolwide assembly.

Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken, joined by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, delivered the news of the award.

Phoenix charter school teacher receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award ShaliniSharmaWinsMilkenAward

Shalini Sharma, 5th-grade teacher at Friendly House Academia del Pueblo Elementary Charter School, is momentarily in shock as she hears Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken announce her name as the newest 2014–15 Milken Educator! Shalini taught in her native India before bringing her talents for education to America in 2007.
“I believe I was born to be a teacher,” Shalini said as she accepted the Milken Educator Award in front of the entire school, VIPs and the media. “Students are much more capable than they think.” Photo courtesy of Milken Family Foundation

Sharma is one of up to 40 recipients across the country this school year who will be receiving the honor. She will join another Phoenix educator to be awarded this afternoon as the only two Arizona recipients for the 2014–15 season.

The Milken Award recognizes exemplary elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

“We’ve been presenting these awards for almost 30 years because we believe—and the research proves it—that effective educators represent the most important school-based factor in improving student performance,” said Lowell Milken. “Student proficiency has soared under Shalini Sharma’s leadership. Equally important, she brings out the best in her students, and continuously inspires and motivates them to reach higher.”

Along with the fanfare and recognition, Sharma now belongs to the Milken Educator Network of more than 2,600 K–12 teachers, principals and specialists from around the country.

Phoenix charter school teacher receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award ShaliniSharmaHomePage

Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken (center) takes a moment to brace new Milken Educator Shalini Sharma as she lets the excitement sink in. Lowell knows that with this new honor, Shalini will have the opportunity to impact even more students’ lives in the future.
Veteran Milken Educator Bradley Breuer (AZ ’10), left, helps display Shalini’s ceremonial check. Photo courtesy Milken Family Foundation

“It is an honor to be able to recognize the outstanding work of a teacher like Shalini Sharma in such a meaningful way,” said Superintendent Douglas. “I am truly impressed by the positive impact she has had on so many students, parents and teachers in both her school and community. She will no doubt continue to change lives for years to come.”

Sharma taught in her native India before bringing her educational talents to America in 2007.

At Friendly House Academia del Pueblo, Sharma provides the rigor and expectations that lead to student success. The results are exceptional.

Sharma volunteered to take over the fifth-grade class in her school when it struggled to see measurable academic gains. She believed that she could reverse the trend.

Phoenix charter school teacher receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award ShaliniSharmaAndDianeDouglas

Students look on as Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas visits with Shalini Sharma iin her classroom after an exciting morning. Photo courtesy Milken Family Foundation

With her guidance, AIMS Reading scores went from 55% in 2013 to 76% in 2014. AIMS Math scores increased from 26% in 2013 to 62% in 2014.

Additionally, throughout the year, math benchmark scores soared in proficiency from 39% in the beginning of the year to 82% in the third quarter—a 43 percent increase.

Reading benchmark scores went from 79% to 90% during that same timeframe. She moved two of her special education students up two grade levels.

Students know exactly what Sharma expects from them. Her own tenacity and belief in their abilities inspire them to work hard and expect the best from themselves.

Students are pushed to think deeply and to exhibit a high level of maturity and conduct; substitute teachers and specialists routinely comment that Sharma’s students are the best behaved, and not a moment is wasted in her classroom.

At science fairs and on math nights, the high-quality projects from Sharma’s class stand out from the crowd.

Sharma has a gift for leadership and is acknowledged by parents and colleagues to be a supportive presence. She is always willing to help, such as tutoring Spanish-speaking parents in English after school.

As lead mentor teacher for the 4th/5th Grade Professional Learning Community team, she introduces best practices that support student achievement. Sharma’s team spirit, strong work ethic and unflagging belief in every child’s ability to learn and thrive give her students the motivation and confidence to achieve at high levels.

Phoenix charter school teacher receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award ShaliniSharmaGroup

Arizona Educators and champions of education take pride in helping Shalini display her $25,000 check, which is representative of the value of great teachers. As a new Milken Educator, Shalini is herself a symbol of what great teachers in her state and around the country can achieve.
Pictured from left: Friendly House Academia del Pueblo Elementary Charter School Principal of Operations Gena Vega, National Institute for Excellence in Teaching President and Milken Educator Dr. Gary Stark (AR ’01), Friendly House Academia del Pueblo Elementary Charter School President and CEO Mark E. Mazon, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, Shalini Sharma (AZ ’14), Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken, Bradley Breuer (AZ ’10), Friendly House Academia del Pueblo Elementary Charter School Principal and Vice President of K-8 and Youth Education Gabriel Sandoval. Photo courtesy Milken Family Foundation

Click here for photos and video of Sharma receiving her Milken Educator Award.

The Milken Family Foundation first presented the Milken Educator Awards in 1987.

Since that time, it has become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program and was dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine.

More than $137 million in funding, including over $65 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.

In Arizona, 34 recipients have been presented with the Milken Educator Award since the program began there in 1998.

Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Awards are sourced through each participating state and recommendations are made to MFF.

Past recipients have used their Awards to finance their children’s education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

Phoenix charter school teacher receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award Academia-del-Pueblo-Ballet-Folklorico

Academia del Pueblo Ballet Folklorico group entertains the crowd with a dance performance to kick off today’s special assembly. Friendly House Academia del Pueblo is a kindergarten through eighth grade charter school in south central Phoenix, Arizona. Photo courtesy of Milken Family Foundation

To get regular updates on notifications, follow the #TeachForTheStars and #MilkenAward hashtags on Twitter and Instagram.

For information about the Milken Educator Awards, click here or call MFF at (310) 570-4775.

Like the Awards on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or watch reaction videos on YouTube.

The Milken Educator Awards program, created by the Milken Family Foundation, was launched in 1987.

The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education.

Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

Video of Shalini Sharma accepting the Milken Educator Award