By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Madison Elementary school teacher, Haley Couch of Norman, Oklahoma, was recently honored (Oct. 23) with a Milken Educator Award. The honor was presented by Milken Family Foundation co-founder Lowell Milken and Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
During a surprise school assembly, Couch 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 Oklahoma this year and is among only 40 honorees for 2018-19.
A kindergarten teacher, Couch is known for her ability to create a controlled and orderly classroom environment where students can flourish and learn. She considers each of her students unique in their own way. As part of her teaching method, she keeps individual student dossiers to track their progress, and develops successful learning strategies for each.
A strong advocate of individualized instruction for students, Couch is an active promoter for structural bureaucracy improvements and an advocate of innovative instruction methods. She opens her classrooms to observers from around the district and is a facilitator for Great Expectations, a school culture improvement program.
“Hailey Couch is a consummate professional characterized by her classroom management, engaging lessons, attention to data and differentiation,” said Milken. “At the same time, her creativity and caring generate a love of learning in young students that paves the way for their future success.”
In an effort to advance her teaching skills, Couch traveled to China on a teacher exchange program and mentored a Chinese teacher in her own classroom.
“Hailey is an engaging teacher whose leadership and encouragement continually result in extraordinary academic growth for her students,” said Hofmeister. “She celebrates the diversity of her classroom and teaches children to value tradition and embrace different cultures from an early age. Her exemplary talent and dedication demonstrate how young teachers in Oklahoma can make a lasting impact on the future of our state.”
Teacher magazine considers the Milken Educator Awards as the “Oscars of Teaching,” which have been “opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years.”
Studies show teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have educators like Ms. Couch in our district,” said Dr. Nick Migliorino, district superintendent of Norman Public Schools. “Her passion for public education is palpable, and her enthusiasm for creative academic strategies is contagious.
“She demonstrates exceptional leadership in the field and displays unwavering support for all students,” Migliorino added. “We are proud to have her – and so many others like her – in our classrooms every day.”
Couch has served on the kindergarten advisory board and early childhood advisory committee for Norman Public Schools. She helped revise the kindergarten report cards, realigning the standards-based report with new state academic standards. Couch earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Oklahoma City University in 2013.
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 over 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 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 dedicated to the Awards initiative, which includes professional learning opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.
The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Teachers cannot apply for this recognition and are not aware they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and reviewed by panels appointed by state departments of education. Those considered most exceptional are recommended for the award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education
For more information, visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org.