(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) – Pop Quiz: When is 1 equal to 1.5 or 2? When Brooke Powers is your math teacher, because her students at Beaumont Middle School (Fayette County) show 1.5 to two years growth in math progress per year.
Powers is a motivational mastermind, amping up student interest through math games, using in-class technology like cell phones and tablets, and exploiting unusual tie-ins to drive home a math concept, such as using Cheetos to demonstrate the algebraic concept of surface area.
Powers received the surprise of a lifetime at a school assembly Jan. 9, where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt and Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Administrator Greg Gallagher. As part of being named a 2017-18 recipient of the national recognition, Powers received an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the only Milken Award winner from Kentucky this year, and is among just 44 honorees for 2017-18.
The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” has been opening minds and shaping futures for 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.
“This award brings attention to our most valuable educational resource – our hardworking, dedicated teachers,” said Pruitt. “This work is not always easy. There are challenges every day. But our Kentucky teachers meet and rise to those challenges and work tirelessly to ensure all students meet high expectations and acquire the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in life.”
A 7th-grade math teacher and math department chair at Beaumont Middle School, Powers knows how to motivate her students to learn. She seeks out creative and cutting-edge teaching techniques, holding “Find the Flub Days” to work on identifying and correcting mistakes and distributing “Take-Home Tool Kits” that include paper algebra tiles and rulers.
“Brooke helps her students find the joy in math and their place in the world by giving them the tools they need to solve problems in life, and not just math problems,” said Milken’s Gallagher. “Tapping into the power of analytical thinking and new technology, while also maintaining a personal touch that cherishes each student as an individual, is part of what powers Brooke’s ability to help students see their futures right before their eyes. We proudly welcome her as a Milken Educator Award winner.”
Powers has a reputation for being able to move any student at any level forward, but math skills are only one piece of her puzzle. She wants her students to learn to communicate, think critically and excel at problem-solving. Powers’ students average 1.5 years of growth on MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessments, with struggling learners showing two years’ growth. On the 2015 K-PREP state assessments, 75 percent of her students reached Proficient or Distinguished levels.
“Brooke Powers creates an atmosphere in her classroom where all students feel empowered to be successful with math,” said Fayette County Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. “She sets high expectations and is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure every Beaumont Middle student achieves and is valued.”
Powers writes a math education blog and participates in multiple online math education groups. She has presented at conferences, including for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, on topics such as instructional practices, motivating struggling learners and standards-based grading. She also has written numerous articles for publications like Kentucky Teacher and Educators for High Standards. A gifted mentor, she is the facilitator for the Fayette County New Teacher Induction Program and has prepared numerous new educators in several districts for successful careers.
Powers earned a bachelor’s in 2005 in agricultural communication, education and leadership from the University of Kentucky, and a master’s in teacher leadership from Eastern Kentucky University in 2013.