Malaree Shields Is Taking STEM By Storm: Rhode Island Science Teacher Surprised With $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Published on Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Santa Monica, California (October 10, 2023) — At North Kingstown High School in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, science teacher Malaree Shields is sending STEM students to new heights. Her collaborative classroom encourages students to work together on exciting hands-on projects and creative learning experiences. Shields works hard to incorporate real-life applications in her lessons to better prepare students for their future careers. Yet today Shields received a real-life honor she never saw coming: a $25,000 Milken Educator Award that she can use however she chooses.

Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green joined Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley to surprise Shields with the prestigious Award at an all-school assembly this morning. Cheering students, colleagues, dignitaries, and media lit up the gymnasium once they realized the true purpose of the gathering.

“Malaree Shields is an innovator and role model for aspiring STEM students,” said Dr. Foley, who is also a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. “Her ability to adapt lessons to serve all learners shows an unwavering commitment to student success. I am thrilled to watch Malaree continue to grow as an educator. Her contributions will be a valued asset to the Milken Educator Network and the profession at large.”

The Award includes lifelong benefits: Along with the unrestricted financial prize, Shields will join the national Milken Educator Network, a growing group of more than 2,900 professionals working to shape the future of education. She will have the opportunity to broaden her impact on the next generation of young engineers and leaders both inside and outside of the classroom.

“A Rhode Island high school graduate herself, we are tremendously grateful Malaree Shields is elevating the teaching profession and enriching the lives of Rhode Island students every day,” said Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “We extend our heartfelt congratulations to her as she joins the esteemed ranks of Milken Educator Award recipients, a testament to her exceptional dedication and impact.”

The Milken Educator Awards are hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching.” Shields is among up to 75 recipients across the country this school year who will be awarded as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. This season will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to “Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate” the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career.

Outstanding educators like Shields are not aware of their candidacy for the Award. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the Award.

More about Malaree Shields

Adaptive STEM Lessons: Shields’ hands-on lessons integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and give students the opportunity to build experience with relevant technology that will serve them in future careers. In her classroom, high schoolers build and program robots to navigate an obstacle course, using inquiry and deductive reasoning to test and revise their machines. Shields is intentional about creating a collaborative environment that serves all learners. In her adaptive classes, she effortlessly designs activities that welcome students at all learning levels and align to each student’s unique learning needs. A champion for student success, she holds high expectations and encourages her high schoolers to take ownership of their learning. Students consistently use technology to gather data and track their progress to meet learning standards. A creative and innovative role model, particularly for young women, Shields’ students leave her classroom well on their way to success in STEM careers.

Career Preparation: In addition to her work in the classroom, Shields supports students as a class advisor and leads NKHS’ award-winning Robotics team. As part of the school’s Academy of Engineering pathway, she coordinates Career and Technology Education (CTE) internships in engineering and connects with local industry leaders to organize workplace opportunities for students. Her pre-engineering students have the chance to earn work hours while implementing real-life applications of their STEM lessons. They teamed up with the climate club to build a mobile living wall and the herbs they grow are used for NKHS’ school lunches.

Year-Round Engagement: Shields helped organize summer science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) camps, where students explore science through games and experiments. She encourages parent involvement in their child’s education, welcoming students and parents to attend monthly STEM nights at the high school and middle school level.

Education: Shields earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and education in 2016 from Salve Regina University.

More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: “The Future

Belongs to the Educated”

The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in June 2024, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.

Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.

Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 

The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.


Milken Educator Awards - Malaree Shields

Press Release Topics