By Kenya Vasquez/ Buckeye Elementary School District
For weeks, Buckeye Elementary School Principal Megan Brown was planning for a visit from Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne to celebrate the school’s academic success.
While many campuses across the country saw declines in student achievement during the pandemic, Buckeye Elementary’s achievement growth soared. From 2018-19 to 2021-22, the school jumped from an F rating with a place on the state’s watchlist to become a bonafide B and a place to watch.
What Brown did not see coming was the presentation of a national Milken Educator Award – and individual $25,000 financial prize – for her visionary leadership and potential to further impact the profession.
Milken Educator Awards YouTube video: Arizona Principal Megan Brown’s Milken Award Speech (Buckeye Elementary)
Superintendent Horne joined Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley to bestow the honor upon the beloved principal before cheering students, colleagues, state and local officials, and media. Brown is among up to 40 elementary educators to be awarded by the Milken Family Foundation this school year and the very first from the Buckeye Elementary School District. In addition to the unrestricted $25,000 Award, she will receive lifelong membership to a network of more than 2,900 Milken Educator Award recipients and other leaders dedicated to strengthening K-12 education.
“Buckeye Elementary’s positive trajectory is nothing short of extraordinary, and Megan Brown is a guiding force for empowering teachers and students to reach their greatest potential,” said Dr. Foley, who is herself a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. “Her leadership is dynamic, collaborative and hands-on, making Buckeye a place where effective teachers want to stay and thrive. The Milken Educator Network will allow Megan to broaden her influence, sharing her meaningful experience and insights both statewide and nationally.”
Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year’s winners’ list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced.
“It’s great to recognize outstanding educators who should be the heroes of our society,” said Superintendent Horne. “At the Arizona Department of Education we will do our best to elevate them to hero status.”
“I am proud of the work Megan Brown has been able to accomplish – transforming a once F-rated school into a high-performing school in a short period speaks volumes of her dedicated and effective leadership. We continue to grow and achieve in Buckeye and we look forward to continuing to see the success of Buckeye Elementary,” said BESD Superintendent Dr. Kristi Wilson.
Since 1987, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.
Milken Educator Awards YouTube video: Principal Megan Brown Milken Award Interview (Buckeye AZ)
More About Megan Brown
Advancing Every Student: At Buckeye Elementary Principal Megan Brown leads her team with one key mantra: Educate all students. Formerly an assistant principal at Buckeye, the district’s largest school, Brown took the helm in January 2021 amid continued pandemic disruptions. Determined to improve student performance, she implemented phonics, small-group instruction and a Tier 1 literacy support plan, adding dedicated staff time to engage in conversations about needed interventions for every student.
School Improvement: Brown secured federal school improvement grants to fund interventions and supported teachers consistently and effectively as they added new programs and strategies to improve student learning outcomes. With Brown’s guidance, Buckeye Elementary improved from an F rating in 2018-19 to a B in 2021-22 and is no longer identified by the state as needing comprehensive support and improvement (CSI). At a time when teachers are leaving schools across the country, Buckeye’s staff retention rate has risen to 90% since Brown took over as principal.
Leading With Joy: Brown creates a school culture that celebrates all growth and exudes joy and passion for both student and teacher learning. She advocates for all students, including those in Buckeye’s self-contained special education programs, and values student “voice and choice” in daily decision-making to move the school forward. Brown mentored new assistant principals when she served in that role and now mentors new principals in the district. She is a professional learning community (PLC) facilitator and works with district kindergarten teachers in their PLC. Brown visits classrooms regularly, part of her mission to systematically improve instructional practices by motivating and engaging staff to co-create instructional models that support all learning.
Community Connections: A master communicator who prioritizes relationships with stakeholders, Brown keeps families, staff and the local community up to date on the developments at Buckeye Elementary through email blasts and social media. At her carnival-like Title I night, parents rotated through academically oriented game booths that shared learning strategies. During the pandemic, Brown led Buckeye’s efforts to make sure student progress continued seamlessly. She coordinated with the school’s social worker to deliver food to families in need and engaged community partners to provide all Buckeye Elementary families with mobile hotspots for internet access.
Education: Brown is a graduate of the University of Wyoming, earning a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education in 2011 and a Master of Arts in educational leadership in 2017.
About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Created by Lowell Milken, 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. The Milken Family Foundation celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at MFF.org.
More About the Milken Educator Awards:
“The future belongs to the educated.”
Along with the financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,900 and growing of exemplary teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.
The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles next month, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.
In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFF) mentoring program, in which new Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice.
Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
“We find you. You don’t find us!” Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.
The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.
To receive regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the Award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward).
For more information, visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.