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Surprise! Clifton, Texas, Teacher Earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award

 “Oscar of Teaching” goes to Samatha Morgan of Clifton Elementary
for excellence in literacy


February 3, 2015

SANTA MONICA, CA—It was a typical day at Clifton Elementary School in Clifton, Texas, until fifth-grade English Language Arts and Reading teacher Samatha Morgan was surprised with a prestigious Milken Educator Award before a campuswide assembly of students, fellow colleagues and dignitaries. The honor comes with a $25,000 cash prize that Morgan can spend however she chooses.

Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken and Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams traveled to the school to deliver the news.

Morgan is one of up to 40 recipients across the country this school year who will be receiving the honor during the 2014–15 season and is the sole recipient in Texas. The Milken Award recognizes exemplary elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

“We’ve been presenting these awards for almost 30 years because we believe—and the research proves it—that effective educators represent the most important school-based factor in improving student performance,” said Lowell Milken. “This evidence comes to life in Samatha Morgan’s classroom, where students are engaged and achievement soars. Our hope is that surprising Samatha and others like her in this public way will inspire young people to consider teaching as a worthy career option.”

Along with the fanfare and recognition, Morgan now belongs to the Milken Educator Network of more than 2,600 K–12 teachers, principals and specialists from around the country.

“Samatha Morgan reflects the very best in Texas public education and represents the excellence we strive to provide for every student in every classroom,” said Commissioner Williams. “Morgan’s commitment to engaging her students every day helps strengthen the future of her community and our state.”

Samatha Morgan is a leader in adopting new techniques for teaching reading skills. Her understanding of the required standards and deep store of instructional tools enable her to meet the needs of students across the spectrum of learning abilities, from struggling to highly gifted readers.

Morgan’s student-centered classroom is a mix of a reading workshop and flipped classroom. She uses a wide variety of proven, cutting-edge strategies to maximize instructional time and make learning fun and engaging, including iPad centers, student-led portfolios and conferences as well as extensive graphs to chart progress. Morgan teaches her students to be responsible for their learning while guiding them with expertise and caring.

Over 90% of her students are reported to achieve passing scores in Reading standards, and her students’ reading fluency often grows by as much as two grade levels while in her class.

Known on campus as “The Book Lady,” Morgan’s classroom library is constantly growing. Instilling a love and passion for reading in her students is a priority. She reads everything that her students read, and is always ready to recommend new books that fit each student’s interests and ability. Her warm relationship with students is evidence of her passion for her work, and students often maintain contact with her long after they have left her class.

Beyond the classroom, Morgan initiated and sponsored Student Council for fifth-graders and volunteered to serve as director of the high school theater production. Colleagues also benefit from her knowledge and leadership, routinely asking for advice on helping students with reading difficulties or instituting new instructional practices.

Currently pursuing a master’s in literacy curriculum and instruction, Morgan is dedicated to the continuation of her own outstanding teaching practice and advancing literacy education for all students at Clifton Elementary.

For photos and video of Morgan receiving her Milken Educator Award, visit http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/samatha-morgan.

The Milken Family Foundation first presented the Milken Educator Awards in 1987. Since that time, it has become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program and was dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine. More than $137 million in funding, including over $65 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. 

In Texas, more than 46 recipients have been presented with the Milken Educator Award since the program began there in 2000.

Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Awards are sourced through each participating state department of education, which appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to confidentially review candidates for recommendation to MFF. Past recipients have used their Awards to finance 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 notifications, follow the #TeachForTheStars and #MilkenAward hashtags on Twitter and Instagram.

For information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/newsroom/media-kit or call MFF at (310) 570-4775.  Like the Awards at www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards, follow us at www.twitter.com/milken and watch the reaction videos at www.youtube.com/milkenaward.

The Milken Educator Awards program, created by the Milken Family Foundation, was launched 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
Senior Manager of Media and Public Affairs
310-570-4774 310-435-9259