Jones Intermediate School has had a lot to celebrate over the years, but today’s announcement may top the list for one educator. Amanda Robertson, fourth grade teacher, received the shock of a lifetime when it was announced that she is North Carolina’s 2016 Milken Educator Award recipient. This announcement was paired with a $25,000 check to be spent as she wishes. Robertson joins up to 35 other educators nationwide to win this award in 2016.
Robertson learned about this honor in front of her peers, students, and administrators at a school-wide assembly where many dignitaries were present as well as State Superintendent June Atkinson. As the highlighted speaker, Dr. Atkinson noted, “Amanda’s rapport with her students makes them want to strive to exceed expectations. Their success can in large part be attributed to her work with Problem-Based Learning, which has garnered her much-deserved accolades from fellow teachers. Jones Intermediate is fortunate to have her on staff; and North Carolina is fortunate to have her in its teaching ranks.”
The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, is in its 30th year. The prestigious honor has been described as “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher magazine. More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 Awards, has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.
Robertson has been in education for eight years and joined Mount Airy City Schools (MACS) in 2013. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2007 from Texas A&M University. She current serves on Jones Intermediate’s Media Technology Advisory Committee which crafts action plans to accommodate the digital learning needs of the school. In addition to teaching fourth grade, she serves as a Problem-Based Learning trainer for Wake Forest University’s Center of Excellence for Research, Teaching, and Learning. Robertson was named the Teacher of the Year for the 2015-2016 year at Jones Intermediate and was also named the Mount Airy City Schools District-Wide Teacher of the Year. She is currently a semi-finalist for Regional Teacher of the Year.
Principal Sherry Cox affirmed Robertson’s work noting, "By transforming her classroom to the PBL model, Mrs. Robertson is able provide an individual approach to learning. Students are activity engaged and motivated each day to learn. Collaboration and technology are natural parts of her classroom. Students feel comfortable to explore, accept challenges, and understand that it's ok to be wrong."
During her short time at Jones Intermediate, Robertson has been an agent of change for her school and district. When MACS received a $1.6 million MAPSS (Math and Project-Based Learning for Student Success) grant, Robertson was one of three teachers in the first cohort to transform her teaching from teaching-centered to student-centered and implement project-based learning (PBL). Assessments have captured impressive results: Grade-level proficiency improved from 50% to 63.56%, and Robertson’s students exceeded the average by more than 10 percentage points. Jones Intermediate, a high-need school where 64% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, scores in the top 4% of all elementary schools in North Carolina.
Upon learning of this honor, Dr. Kim Morrison, Superintendent, stated, “We are extremely proud of Amanda Robertson and all she has accomplished in her career. The level of excellence our teachers bring every day is evident in Amanda's classroom as she works hard to provide a learning environment for each child. Teachers are often underpaid and feel under-appreciated. We are excited to celebrate this award with Amanda and hope she understands how much we appreciate her and all of the teachers in Mount Airy City Schools. Our teachers make a difference every day in the lives of our children and our community is a better place because of teachers like Amanda Robertson.”
The Milken Educator Award is quite different from most teacher recognition programs. There is no formal application or nomination process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those departments recommend their most exceptional candidates and the Milken Family Foundation makes the final approval of the winners. Recipients can range from exceptional teachers, principals, or specialists who are impacting excellence in the nation’s schools.