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The Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award 

This prestigious national award recognizes and celebrates professionals who are furthering excellence in education.


2021 Milken Educator Award Winner - John Rosenbaum

In a surprise assembly on March 29, 2022, John Rosenbaum, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Segue Institute for Learning, received a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for his unique approach to teaching: bringing learning to life through educational, creative experiences his students will remember for a lifetime. 

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green surprised Rosenbaum with the national honor, which includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. Rosenbaum will join a national network of more than 2,800 Milken educators and education leaders across the U.S. 

Here the spotlight ceremony where it happened and here is his reaction to the award.

The Milken Educator Awards program provides recognition and unrestricted financial awards of $25,000 to exceptional elementary- and secondary-school teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in American schools. This year, the Milken Family Foundation will honor up to 60 educators, and John Rosenbaum is one of the 2 Milken Educator Award winners from Rhode Island.

Congratulations to all educators at Segue Institute for Learning, particularly to John Rosenbaum, on your commitment to great teaching and learning.

News announcements and articles:

2020 Milken Educator Award Winner - Nancie Lawrence

In a surprise assembly on March 29, 2022, Nancie Lawrence, a reading specialist at Steere Farm Elementary School, received a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for her work creating welcoming, rewarding environments for her students to learn. Lawrence, who was formerly a third-grade teacher at the school, challenges students to think deeply and work hard for results. Her goal is to hold students to rigorous standards while creating a nurturing environment to learn, and her methods deliver. Her students’ overall ELA proficiency rate on the 2019 state exams was 53 percent, compared with 33 percent for the state and 30 percent for the Burrillville district.

Here is the spotlight ceremony where it happened and here is her interview to the award.

The Milken Educator Awards program provides recognition and unrestricted financial awards of $25,000 to exceptional elementary- and secondary-school teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in American schools. Lawrence is among more than 60 educators nationwide to receive the recognition during the 2021-2022 school year and only one of two recipients in Rhode Island.

Congratulations to all educators at Steere Farm Elementary, particularly to Nancie Lawrence, on your commitment to great teaching and learning.

News announcements and articles:

2019 Milken Educator Award Winner - Jennifer Paolantonio

On the morning of January 15, 2020, special education teacher Jennifer Paolantonio (RI '19) got the surprise of a lifetime at Ponaganset High School in North Scituate, Rhode Island when she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching Dr. Candice McQueen and Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green.

Here the spotlight ceremony where it happened and here is her reaction to the award.

The award, from the Milken Family Foundation, carries an unrestricted cash award of $25,000.

The Milken Educator Awards program provides recognition and unrestricted financial awards of $25,000 to exceptional elementary- and secondary-school teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in American schools. This year, the Milken Family Foundation will honor up to 40 educators, and Jennifer Paolantonio is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Rhode Island.

Congratulations to all educators at Ponaganset High School, particularly to Jennifer Paolantonio, on your commitment to great teaching and learning.

News announcements and articles:

2018 Milken Educator Award Winner - Michelle Johnson

Third-grade ESL teacher Michelle Johnson (RI '18) got the surprise of a lifetime this morning at Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School in Providence, Rhode Island. "I'm at a loss for words, and everyone who knows me knows that NEVER happens—this is crazy!" said Michelle when Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards, handed her the microphone. Local and state dignitaries were on hand to congratulate Rhode Island's newest Milken Educator, including Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Dr. Ken Wagner and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

At the end of every school year, Ms. Johnson throws a party for students and families. Over pizza and juice, pupils and their parents watch a celebratory slideshow and pore over folders of drawings, papers and projects. The teacher leads a sheltered-instruction class of English language learners, so the room buzzes with conversation in at least eight different languages. She celebrates every student’s growth, no matter the starting point, and children make great strides in her classroom: While 100% of her 26 students began last year below grade level on Lexia Reading assessments, all reached grade-level benchmarks by the end of the year, and 40% scored even higher.

The award, from the Milken Family Foundation, carries an unrestricted cash award of $25,000.

The Milken Educator Awards program provides recognition and unrestricted financial awards of $25,000 to exceptional elementary- and secondary-school teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in American schools. This year, the Milken Family Foundation will honor up to 45 educators.

Congratulations to all educators at Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School, particularly to Michelle Johnson, on your commitment to great teaching and learning.

News announcements and articles:

2017 Milken Educator Award Winner - Lauren Hopkins

In a surprise ceremony on October 26, 2017 at her school, Lauren Hopkins, English teacher and literacy specialist at Coventry High School in Coventry, was named the Rhode Island winner of a 2017 Milken Educator Award. The award, from the Milken Family Foundation, carries an unrestricted cash award of $25,000.

The Milken Educator Awards program provides recognition and unrestricted financial awards of $25,000 to exceptional elementary- and secondary-school teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in American schools. This year, the Milken Family Foundation will honor up to 45 educators.

Congratulations to all educators at Coventry High School, particularly to Lauren Hopkins, on your commitment to great teaching and learning.

News announcements and articles:

Past Recipients of the Milken Educator Award

YEAR NAME SCHOOL/DISTRICT*
2021 John Rosenbaum Segue Institute for Learning (Burrillville)
2020 Nancie Lawrence Steere Farm Elementary 
2019 Jennifer Paolantonio Ponaganset High School (Foster-Glocester)
2018 Michelle Johnson Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School (Providence)
2017 Lauren Hopkins Coventry High School (Coventry)
2016 Emily Caldarelli Paul Cuffee Charter School
2015 Kendra Borden Pawtucket
2014 Erin Quinlan Foster
2013 Marielle Emet Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy
2012 Yanaiza Gallant Providence
2011 Michael J. Lobdell Warwick
2010 Dale Blaess Newport
2009 Jaime Crowley Bristol-Warren
2008 Jennifer Theroux Barrington
2007 Janine Napolitano North Providence
2006 Amy Dufault Thompson Pawtucket
  Kathleen Moffit Chariho
2005 Diana Petrosinelli Cranston
  Andrew Wallace Exeter-West Greenwich
2004 Susan Toohey Kaye Coventry
  Katherine Sharkey Warwick
2003 Charles Myers, Jr. Woonsocket
  Mary Ann Guerin Cumberland
2002 Stephanie Blackburn Westerly
  Susan L. Caputo Smithfield
2001 Peter J. McLaren East Greenwich
  Ulysses S. Gallman, III Narragansett
2000 Barbara Ashby Providence
  Judyith Rowe Bristol Warren
  Mariann Hayward South Kingstown
1999 Crandall Dimock South Kingstown
  Denise Frederick North Kingstown
  Richard Gannon Warwick
  Geri McCarthy Barrington
1998 Linda Bello Cranston
  Mary Lou Harrison Scituate
  Kathleen Ward Brown Narragansett
  Barry Ricci Coventry
1997 Michael Barnes Foster-Glocester
  Mary Canole Newport
  Robert Miller Scituate
  MaryKay Schnare Providence
1996 Carol Glanville Bristol Warren
  Ginny Kircanski Pawtucket
  Ralph Perry Middletown
1995 Donna Della Porta Coventry
  Ted Hersey Scituate
  Edward Lemoi Cranston
  Joseph Militello East Greenwich
  Ann OGrady East Greenwich
1994 Henry DeVona Johnston
  Linda Filomeno Providence
  Rosemarie Kraeger Middletown
  Joseph Pasonelli Cranston
  Margaret Swann West Warwick
1993 Howard Boyaz  
  Leland Brown Newport
  Carole Harmon Providence
  Ann Kachanis Davies Career and Technical High School
  Frederick Pasquariello  
  Kris Whitford-Bell South Kingstown
1992 David Capaldi  
  Patricia Jarvis Woonsocket
  Sandra Lamb  
  Joyce Stevos Providence
  Eric Wertheimer  
  Judith Sweeney  
1991 Jorge Alverez Providence
  Leslie Bettencourt Lincoln
  Judith Leonard  
  David Neves Scituate
  Robert Wallace North Smithfield
  Darlene Walsh Cranston
1990 Alfred Belasco Smithfield
  Jeanne Dawson Warwick
  Cheryl Fisher-Allen Providence
  Norma Garnett  
  Paul Mello Middletown
  Robert Smith  

*When Available

Milken Educators of Rhode Island
The Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards program provides public recognition and financial rewards to teachers, principals, and other education professionals who are furthering excellence in education.

Here is a video montage featuring some of Rhode Island's Milken award winners - 30 years of Milken Educator Award Surprises: Rhode Island

The goals of the program are:

  • to celebrate and reward educators making a sustained, creative and substantive contribution to the education of elementary and secondary school children
  • to foster the active professional development and career enhancement of Milken Educators and other professionals
  • to encourage Milken Educators to help shape educational policies that influence their classrooms and schools
  • to elevate the teaching profession by increasing public recognition of and support for outstanding educators and successful school programs
  • to encourage talented men and women to enter the field of education

Awards are presented to elementary (grades K-6) educators and secondary (grades 7-12) educators in alternate years.

Each Milken Educator Award carries with it an unrestricted award of $25,000.

Milken Educator Awards are announced in the fall and celebrated at banquets hosted by the foundation in each state. These celebrations are attended by the honorees' families, local school administrators, community leaders, the state's chief of education and frequently its governor. These events are an important part of the program since a major goal is to honor educators publicly.