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Model Math Instruction Plus Mentorship Equal $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Durango Hometown Hero Tiffany Miera

Fifth grade teacher's methods raise math proficiency and educator effectiveness at Needham Elementary

October 11, 2022

Santa Monica, Calif., — Fifth grade math teacher Tiffany Miera has developed an equation for success at Needham Elementary School, her alma mater. Leading with a growth mindset, Miera inspires her students to progress at high levels and helps drive high-quality instruction schoolwide as a mentor to colleagues. That community impact was celebrated today at a school assembly where Miera was surprised with a national Milken Educator Award. The honor includes a $25,000 cash prize that Miera can use however she chooses. 

Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken, joined by Colorado Department of Education Associate Commissioner of Educator Talent Dr. Colleen O'Neil, presented Miera with the prestigious recognition before cheering students, appreciative colleagues, state and local dignitaries, and media. Miera joins the Milken Educator Network of more than 2,900 outstanding educators and leaders from across the country dedicated to strengthening K-12 education. 

"Talented teachers like Tiffany Miera provide the kind of guidance and compassion that students carry with them through learning and life," said Lowell Milken. "I commend Tiffany for giving back to the community as a teacher, mentor and leader, and look forward to her contributions on a national scale as a member of our Milken Educator Network. Congratulations." 

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. 

"Congratulations to Tiffany Miera on the honor of being named a Milken Educator," Commissioner of Education Dr. Katy Anthes said. "Her dedication to building relationships with her students and their families in and out of the classroom is inspiring. We are excited to continue learning from her innovative work helping students succeed in math!" 

"Ms. Miera is an invaluable member of her school and community," Dr. Colleen O'Neil said. "She is a trusted leader among her colleagues and is dedicated to improving and supporting her hometown of Durango. We are so grateful to have teachers like her in Colorado who offer their talents to mentor fellow educators and demonstrate their passion for student learning."       

The Awards will honor up to 40 elementary educators in the 2022-2023 school year. Over the past 35 years, 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. 

More About Tiffany Miera 

Methods for Success: Tiffany Miera helps fifth graders build the foundational math skills they need to succeed. Miera embraces innovative practices, always putting students' needs first and encouraging them to take risks, try new things, think creatively and critically, and embrace a growth mindset. After students made significant strides when she piloted the Concepts for Learning Mathematics process, including "math congress" discussions that encourage students to talk about math thinking, Miera mentored other teachers to give more students access to her highly effective practices. She previously taught special education and is determined to provide appropriate access points to learning for all students, focused on grade-level proficiency. And Miera's methods deliver. Needham's fifth graders have risen from 25.4% proficiency in 2019 to 42.9% in 2022, outperforming the district and state. 

Professional Development and Leadership: A leader in her building and district, Miera has served on Needham's instructional leadership, math curriculum, cultural, and gifted and talented teams. She received a district grant to increase efforts around diversity and gifted and talented offerings at Needham. Miera has led professional development for elementary math colleagues, mentors new and student teachers, and welcomes district colleagues into her classroom to observe. Determined to close achievement gaps that resulted from the pandemic, Miera created a mixed-grade cohort for hybrid learning during the 2020-21 school year, providing rich in-person and online instruction to two different clusters on a complicated alternating-day schedule. 

Hometown Connection: Miera is a Durango native with strong community ties—she was once a Needham student herself and has spent her entire career in education at the school. She builds relationships with all students and works collaboratively with families to meet each child's needs, including those with individualized education and behavior plans. Miera lives down the street from Needham and welcomes students to stop by for help with schoolwork, even if they have not been in her class for years. Outside of school, Miera coaches jiu jitsu and kickboxing, and she waits tables at the same local restaurant where she worked as a high schooler—with delighted students and their families often visiting on weekends.

Education: Miera earned a bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies and ESL in 2008 from Fort Lewis College, a master's in special education in 2014 from Grand Canyon University, and a master's in educational leadership with a principal certification in 2022 from Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

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 top 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, 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. 

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 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. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at MFF.org