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High tech teacher Nichole Anderson innovates her way to a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

California educator empowers school code warriors with next-gen computer skills at Hamilton Elementary in Pasadena

February 20, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — The newest technologies and the youngest students go hand in hand at Nichole Anderson's computer lab classroom at Hamilton Elementary in Pasadena, California. By giving students in kindergarten through fifth grade access to and expertise in technologies such as 3-D printing, computer coding, robotics, word processing and web applications, Anderson is building a platform for students to succeed from an early age, whatever the future may bring. A charismatic and caring teacher who knows the names of all 600 kids in her school, she finds ways to make technology personal, approachable and concrete for her students.

But it was Anderson's name that got called this morning at a surprise school assembly where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken and Pasadena Unified Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald.

A surprised Anderson was named a 2018-19 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Educator Award winner from California this year, and is among the 33 honorees.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching," has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 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."

As the computer lab teacher at Hamilton, Anderson helps students build technology skills that support all other areas of learning. Among the many technology skills Anderson shares with her students are: computer and web coding, typing and word processing, 3-D printing, robotics, internet safety, computer graphics creation, online research and presentation technology. Anderson also promotes professional development among her colleagues, trains staff on technology and serves on multiple educational committees as well as organizing weekly assemblies and tech fairs.

"A forward-thinking teacher like Nichole Anderson understands the importance of building a technology foundation that helps prepare students for academic and real-world challenges in the 21st century," said Milken. "She is a welcome addition to the National Milken Educator Network."

"Nichole Anderson is a visionary educator who inspires students to reach high, be creative, and develop solutions to real-world problems," said McDonald. "She ensures that students are equipped with knowledge and skills to form meaningful connections to the world through technology, leadership, and collaboration."

About Milken Educator Nichole Anderson
In Nichole Anderson’s computer lab at Hamilton Elementary School in Pasadena, California, students build technology skills that help them in every area of learning. As early as first grade, Hamilton students design and manufacture useful items like pencil holders and class restroom passes using 3-D printers. They are fluent with tools like Google Docs and Google Slides, creating presentations about themselves that include formatting multiple slides, inserting photos and designing text. Anderson has introduced projects that are now part of the curriculum, including creating personal blogs using HTML coding, graphic design projects employing green screen and a pixel art assignment. Anderson's vision has transformed technology education on campus. All students gain access to coding, typing, internet safety, robotics, word processing, online research and presentation technology throughout their Hamilton years. Her goal: mold students' attitudes about using technology to support learning goals, solve problems and innovate.

Anderson serves as Hamilton's testing and technology point person, attending conferences and then training building staff. As the organizer for state assessments, she works with every testing grade to make sure they are comfortable with the Chromebook-based digital testing system before assessments begin. Anderson holds high expectations for herself and her students, and she is committed to helping her colleagues meet those same expectations. She plans and delivers professional development and partners with local coders, computer programmers and 3-D printing companies. Colleagues know that Hamilton students perform at higher levels because of the technology foundation Anderson provides in both typing and basic computer and internet skills. Technology changes quickly, but Anderson stays on the cutting edge: When she decided to add basic coding to her curriculum, she took lessons, learning not only how to code but how to teach the concepts to others.

Anderson plays a central role in Hamilton's culture. She knows every student in the K-5 school by name, an admirable feat in a school with nearly 600 students. Anderson organizes a long list of school events, including weekly assemblies, enrichment classes, science and cultural fairs, yearbook and kindergarten playdate program. She mentors students via leadership committees she developed through the Leader in Me program, organized a holiday gift drive for children in a local shelter and participates on various committees including the English Learner Advisory, School Site Council, African American Parent Council, Annual Fund and Parent Teacher Association. Students often gather in the computer lab at lunchtime to work on projects and class work.

Anderson earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from California State University Sacramento in 2005, a master's in education from California State University Fresno in 2011 and a special education credential from California State University Northridge in 2011.

More information about Anderson, 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/Nichole-Anderson.

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, the 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, 2018-19 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in New Orleans from March 21-24, 2019. 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, 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 31 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.

Lynne Russo 
(818) 903-6079 cell; 
lynneerusso@gmail.com