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2006 Milken National Educator Award Recipients

Jen Almquist

In second-grade teacher Jennifer Almquist's classroom at Superior Valley Elementary School in Superior, students do more than learn lessons—they experience them. When studying the life cycle, Ms. Almquist's students collect tadpoles and watch them grow into frogs; when studying the U.S. Constitution, they draft a class constitution and dress in period costumes to sign their constitution into law. Under Ms. Almquist's creative tutelage, spelling exercises become writing and artistic activities, helping students not only meet expectations but enjoy meeting them. She provides individual attention to her students, scheduling a one-on-one lunch with a different child each day during her lunch hour. Thanks to Ms. Almquist's work, parents have observed dramatic improvements in their children—academically and behaviorally—including students with special needs. She is the second-grade team leader and has served as a member of several committees, from the school improvement team to the curriculum committee. She is also the yearbook coordinator and the talent show director for each grade level. It's no understatement to call Jennifer Almquist a truly superior teacher.

Karen Brown

Teacher Karen Brown has helped gifted and talented third and fourth graders dramatically improve their learning at Coronado Elementary School in Littleton. Recognizing the diversity in learning styles and developmental levels, Ms. Brown differentiates her instruction to meet each student's needs, implementing strategies from guided reading groups to writer's workshops. She created a "Poetry Café" to allow students to share their favorite writing and poetry, and held mock congressional hearings in which students provided information about the U.S. Constitution to a panel of "senators" played by various community members. In one year, her students' writing scores rose from 0 percent achieving "advanced" on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) to 61 percent. Ms. Brown created a resource and strategy bank for teachers in kindergarten through sixth grade, as well as a guided book room with leveled texts, novel sets and other teaching resources. Sponsor of the chess club, she led her students to two consecutive state championships. The phrase "gifted and talented" describes not only her students; it aptly describes Karen Brown as well.