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Math teacher Dale Adamson solves student engagement equation, earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award

STEM boosting teacher brings real-world math to Miami-Dade's McMillan Middle School 


December 15, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif.,—From asteroid algebra to roof-top basket drops, Dale Adamson always keeps things interesting for his students: This definitely isn't your father's middle school math class! Adamson is the X-factor in rising student achievement numbers that find all of his students passing their year-end algebra test, scoring 41 percent above the state average. By showing how math ties in to world events and everyday occurrences, Adamson is keeping it real for students in the best possible way and boosting engagement with innovative lessons and community relationship building. 

But Adamson was the one getting a life lesson of a different sort this morning during a surprise student assembly at Howard D. McMillan Middle School where he received a Milken Educator Award. Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart and Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley named him a 2017-18 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. Adamson is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Florida this year, and is among the 44 honorees for 2017-18.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

Real-world connections and hands-on teaching methods are hallmarks of Adamson's educational practices in the classroom and beyond. Whether he's integrating technology to amp student interest, actively boosting minority student STEM engagement or involving families and the community in rocketry experiments, Adamson is finding ways to solve the surprisingly complex equation of middle-school education.

"Dale Adamson was in medical school on his way to becoming a doctor when he changed gears to become a teacher. His ability to look at a 'problem' in life, as in mathematics, is part and parcel of what makes him a great educator," said Foley. "By making math engaging to all students, each in his or her own way, Adamson is demonstrating the type of leadership and initiative we seek in our Milken Educators. We are proud of his innovative and inclusive teaching methods promoting STEM education to all, making a better future for his students, his school and ultimately the larger world."

"I am honored to celebrate Dale Adamson today, as he receives this prestigious award from the Milken Family Foundation," said Stewart. "Because of educators like Mr. Adamson, Florida's students are gaining the critical knowledge they need to succeed in today's workforce. With more jobs than ever before in STEM fields, it is critical that students begin developing these skills as early as possible and Mr. Adamson has been integral to his students achieving that goal."

"The Milken Educator Awards honor outstanding professionals as their careers begin to flourish," said Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Alberto M. Carvalho. "This coveted recognition provides educators with cutting-edge resources to develop their skills as they mentor and collaborate with their colleagues. Our school district attracts and retains some of the nation's best and brightest teachers. The Milken Family Foundation supports our mission of highlighting excellence in the teaching profession and rigor and innovation in education."

About Milken Educator Dale Adamson

STEM teacher Dale Adamson goes to great lengths to show his students at Miami's Howard D. McMillan Middle School the real-world applications of mathematics. He enthralled a crowd of kids, teachers and parents the day he climbed up on the school roof to drop student-made baskets from a specific height to illustrate a mathematical solution to a particular equation. When NASA landed a probe on an asteroid, Adamson turned the event into a math and science lesson that explored how algebra made the mission possible. His enthusiasm for math is contagious: 100% of his Algebra 1 students pass the course's end-of-year test, scoring 41% above the state average. Many of Adamson's Intensive Mathematics students who start the year in his class below grade level move into advanced or honors classes, and Adamson earned the maximum of 50 Value Added Model points from the state based on his students' test results. 

Adamson uses every minute of class time effectively and is known to create strong relationships with the entire student body, not just his own students. He often integrates technology to make lessons relevant, allowing students to use their own tablets and mobile phones. Adamson sponsors the school's large SECME (Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering) club, in which more than 120 students participate, and prepares students for the organization's Olympiad competition. He organizes and hosts STEM "family nights" for the McMillan community, where students and their families work together on projects involving rockets and hot air balloons. 

Adamson also impacts teachers inside and outside of his school.  He meets regularly with the math, science and technology departments, models lessons and shares strategies to integrate STEM across the curriculum.  He also presents at the IDEA Expo Teacher Conference; setting a roadmap for teachers to integrate Florida State Standards in math and science lessons, engaging with high interest STEM activities.

Adamson coaches intramural sports, modeling good sportsmanship, professionalism and academic achievement; if athletes' grades fall below a B, he tutors them before and after school to close the gaps so they can continue to play on the team. He also requires athletes to wear a shirt and tie on game days. Adamson was admitted to medical school and started down the path toward becoming a doctor, changing professions after a stint as a substitute teacher convinced him that he would be more fulfilled as an educator.

Adamson earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Boston University and a master's degree from Adams State University.

More information about Adamson, plus links to photos and a video from today’s assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/Dale-Adamson.

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Adamson's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2017-18 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 20-23, 2018. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children’s education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawardswww.twitter.com/milkenwww.youtube.com/milkenaward, and http://instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.

 For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards

The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 30 years ago in 1987. 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.

Jana Rausch
Communications Director
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Lynne Russo 
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