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2018 Lowell Milken Center Names Six New Fellows

June 24, 2018

FORT SCOTT, Kan., – The Lowell Milken Center (LMC) for Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott, Kansas, an international educational non-profit, has awarded its prestigious Fellowship to twelve outstanding individuals for 2017. LMC is pleased to announce the remaining six Fellows attending the second week of special programming at the facility, starting on June 24, 2018.

The LMC Fellowship is awarded on the basis of merit to educators who have distinguished themselves in teaching respect and understanding through project-based learning or who have the potential for this distinction. The Center selects exemplary teachers from across America and Europe, drawn from a variety of disciplines, to collaborate on projects that discover, develop, and communicate the stories of Unsung Heroes in history.

While in Fort Scott, LMC Fellows gain knowledge, educational resources and ongoing support to enhance their classrooms and help students cultivate a passion for learning by creating projects that initiate positive change. Fellows emerge prepared to develop Unsung Heroes projects with their students as they apply and evaluate the stories of role models who have changed the world throughout history. Prior years' Fellows have called the opportunity the "most intense professional development experience" of their careers.

These six educators will begin a week of collaboration with LMC staff, starting June 24, 2018:

Katie Craven

Katie Craven

School: Open World Learning Community

Subject: Social Studies

City: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Katie Craven is a social studies teacher covering a wide-range of ages and subjects: 6th grade Minnesota Studies, high school U.S. History and AP U.S. History, as well as a Women's Studies elective. Katie leads her school's National History Day program, serves on the building's leadership team, oversees the school's Senior Class, and is currently working to establish a National Honor Society chapter for the school. She also works with the district's Learning and Leading with Social Studies cohort, working to develop lessons that relate to the diversity of the district's student body. Craven's students produce strong results on AP exams and consistently do well in NHD competitions, with students being sent to the National Contest three years in a row. 

LMC Executive Director Norm Conard says, "Katie is a project maker, the kind we love as Fellows and the kind that causes our Fellowships to be so distinguished. We will all learn from her."

Thomas Dennison

Thomas Dennison

School: Havre de Grace Elementary School

Subject: Fifth Grade Teacher

City: Havre de Grace, Maryland

Thomas Dennison is a 2016 Milken Educator who uses his platform to inspire teachers, as he believes that they are the greatest motivators and tools a student can have. He consistently hosts visiting teachers in his classroom and leads workshops on engagement and relationship building with students. He has served on the PBIS team at his school for several years and is one of the founding House Leaders for his school's 11 Expectation Core Value House program.

In the 2015-2016 school year 100% of Dennison's reading students passed the Scholastic Reading Inventory and the piloted PARCC assessments at the proficient or advanced reading level. Throughout his career as an educator, Dennison has taught gifted students as well as high-needs special education students from kindergarten to fifth grade. Students say that he understands them, isn't fake with them and lets their voices be heard. Guiding students to be real and hardworking remains Dennison's overarching goal.

"Thomas was the outstanding Milken Educator in Maryland," says LMC Executive Director Norm Conard. "His work in elementary education will allow us to further our outreach in this area. He will reach a high level with project-based learning."

Paula Franklin

Paula Franklin

School: West High School

Subject: Government

City: Knoxville, Tennessee

Paula Franklin is a 2017 Milken Educator and a leader within her school and district. Paula serves as a mentor to new teachers, a TEAM lead teacher, a member of the leadership and instructional support teams and is the sophomore class dean at West. She also supervises the MYP Personal Project experience for sophomore students and sponsors homecoming court and prom. She will serve on the school’s foundation board during the 2018-2019 school year.

In addition to school leadership, Paula continually reflects on her practice and hones her lessons to best fit the needs of her students, as well as the current political climate. Franklin's students consistently perform well above the national average on the AP US Government and Politics exam. Eighty-two percent of her students pass with an average score of 3.59, which far exceeds the national average of 50 percent and a 2.65 score. What's more, enrollment in her challenging course has doubled since she took over the class.

LMC Executive Director Norm Conard says, "Paula exemplifies former Fellows through her great enthusiasm, expertise and project-based learning experience."

Nikos Giannopoulos

Nikos Giannopoulos

School: Beacon Charter High School for the Art

Subject: Special Education Teacher

City: Woonsocket, Rhode Island

Nikos Giannopoulos is the 2017 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year. Through his work as a special education teacher and coordinator at the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, he co-teaches classes in algebra, chemistry, and filmmaking and is also responsible for creating transition plans and evaluations for the students at Beacon with special learning needs.

Giannopoulos has a passion for all students and, in particular, for those who have special learning needs. Additionally, as a sponsor of the Gay Straight Alliance at Beacon, Nikos is committed to diversity and to creating a safe and secure learning environment for all. He believes that his greatest rewards as a teacher come not from awards or accolades, but through the students and artists he has been privileged to nurture.

According to LMC Executive Director Norm Conard, "Nikos is a leader in New England education and demonstrates great expertise in his field. Recognized as a dynamic, caring and compassionate educator by colleagues, students, and community members, Nikos possesses the qualities that will make him an outstanding Fellow."

Penny Heath

Penny Heath

School: Canton High School

Subject: History/Humanities

City: Canton, Oklahoma

Penny Heath is a 37-year classroom veteran who teaches history and humanities. In 2014 Mrs. Heath was named National History Day Educator of the Year for her work with the award winning National History Day program. Each year Heath's students participate in project-based learning activities centered on a general theme provided by National History Day. Students are guided through in-depth research on topics of their choice, many of which include unsung heroes from our nation's history. This research is then presented through various mediums at local, regional, state and national competitions. Since 1985, Heath has guided hundreds of students through this project based learning. From this group, 279 students have qualified for the national level competition, and 105 have been named as finalists and/or special prize winners. Besides fostering a love for history, Heath's students learn valuable life skills including time management, perseverance, team work, and the value of hard work.

LMC Executive Director Norm Conard notes, "Penny has a record of project based learning success. We look forward to a long relationship involving outstanding student work."

Lauren Jensen

Lauren Jensen

School: Robert E. Lee High School

Subject: English/Language Arts

City: Springfield, Virginia

A 13-year veteran of the classroom, Lauren Jensen teaches English language arts courses, ranging from college-preparatory to advanced level, International Baccalaureate, at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia. A firm believer in the power of writing, Lauren is committed to offering her students engaging writing experiences, with a particular focus on providing students with an authentic audience and purpose for their writing.

Before returning to Lee High School in 2016 (where she previously taught from 2002 -2011), she spent three years teaching ELA at Glen Cove High School. In addition to her teaching load, Lauren also acted as a Writing Coach for the Glen Cove School District, conducting professional development for the teaching of writing to members of the teaching community, with a special focus on vertically aligning writing instruction in the district. A 2015 recipient of the Milken Educator Award, Lauren holds a Master's degree from Columbia University, and completed a research fellowship at New York University in 2013, during which she conducted research focused on the most successful models for professional development for the teaching of writing, as well as the efficacy of think aloud protocols (TAP) for writing instruction. Lauren is a Teacher Consultant for two National Writing Project sites: the Northern Virginia Writing Project and the Long Island Writing Project. Lauren has presented at local, state, and national teaching conferences, with a focus on real-world genre writing instruction and its effects on student motivation.

LMC Executive Director Norm Conard says, "Lauren sets a high standard for creativity and innovation in the classroom. She is the kind of educator who distinguishes our Fellowships."

About Lowell Milken Center (LMC) for Unsung Heroes
Established in 2007, the Lowell Milken Center (LMC) for Unsung Heroes works to transform classrooms and communities through student-driven projects that discover Unsung Heroes from history and teach the power of one to create positive change. To date, LMC has reached over 1,300,000 students and 8,500 schools in all 50 states, with growing global reach. Learn more about LMC at and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contacts:
Norm Conard, LMC Executive Director: (620) 223-1312,
Megan Felt, LMC Program Director: (620) 223-1312,