The tables turned at a schoolwide assembly Nov. 16 when the Milken Family Foundation honored — and stunned — Jaime Enochs of the School of International Studies at San Diego High with its Milken Educator Award, which comes with a no-strings-attached cash prize of $25,000.
Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, State Assemblymember and Speaker Pro Tempore Lori Saldaña, San Diego Unified School District Interim Superintendent Bill Kowba and San Diego Unified School Board President Sheila Jackson were among the leaders participating in the surprise celebration to honor the International Baccalaureate (IB) English department chair and youngest in the department.
Dubbed “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher Magazine, the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards were conceived by Lowell Milken to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and encourage talented young people to enter the teaching profession. Unlike most teaching awards, the Milken Educator Awards have no formal nomination or application process. Each year exceptional teachers, principals and specialists—recommended without their knowledge by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by each state’s department of education—are surprised with the news of their awards.
“Highly effective educators are the human capital that will equip America’s youth in this increasingly competitive global economy,” said Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. “By shining a national spotlight on exceptional people like Jaime Enochs, the Milken Educator Awards send a powerful message of the critical role that talented teachers play in preparing young people for a bright future.”
At the School of International Studies located at the San Diego High Educational Complex, Jaime Enochs has developed innovative ways to navigate students through the rigors of IB curriculum. From this blend of creativity and critical thinking emerged her section on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which Enochs created a “character meter” for her students to track Hamlet’s anxiety level during each act. Her artistic skills are no secret, as she decorates her classroom with elaborate charts and décor she makes herself. She also fashioned pins for her IB English seniors—bees with large eyes to symbolize “IB”—to wear for confidence and solidarity during their rigorous IB testing. Almost 100 percent of her seniors went on to pass the California IB English language exam. The worldwide average is 60 percent.
In addition, almost 100 percent of ninth-grade students passed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), and scores are far above state averages under Enochs’ direction. The principal attributes these numbers to Enochs’ staff preparations as the coordinator of the school-wide testing program. Enochs’ leadership also triumphed in 2008, when she was the coordinator for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) committee. Under her leadership, the School of International Studies received the highest rating possible with a six-year accreditation. This was the first time a San Diego school had received this level of accreditation in nine years.
Enochs joins 2009 California recipients Roberto Gonzalez of Los Angeles’s Virgil Middle School and Ana Higuera of Lynwood High School.
Since first presented in 1987 to 12 exemplary California teachers, the Milken Educator Awards program is now the nation’s largest teacher recognition program having honored more than 2,400 educators from coast to coast with over $60 million. The Awards alternate each year between elementary and secondary educators. This year, 54 educators are being presented, with cash prizes totaling 1.35 million.
In addition to their cash prizes, the recipients will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the Milken Educator Forum, a national gathering of award-winning educators to address innovative strategies for advancing teacher effectiveness. A highlight of the Forum will be the presentation of the $25,000 Milken Educator Awards at a recognition dinner and ceremony. They will also join the Milken Educator Network, a group of distinguished educators whose expertise serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others shaping the future of education.
Candidates for the Milken Educator Awards are selected on the basis of the following criteria:
- Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school;
- Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession;
- Individuals whose contributions to education are largely unheralded yet worthy of the spotlight;
- Early- to mid-career educators who offer strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and
- Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.
For more information about the Milken Educator Awards and the surprise notification events held across the nation, visit http://www.mff.org