(TAYLOR MILL, KY) – Laura Cole, a mathematics teacher at Scott High School (Kenton County), was celebrated Feb. 26 as the latest Kentucky educator to receive a Milken Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation.
Cole was presented with the award, which includes a $25,000 unrestricted cash prize, in a surprise ceremony at her school that included students, faculty and district and community leaders. The award was presented by Kentucky Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown, First Lady Britainy Beshear and Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher. Kentucky Board of Education member JoAnn Adams also attended the ceremony.
“It is an incredible honor to be here as we celebrate our most valuable educational resource – our hardworking, dedicated teachers,” Brown said. “The work is not always easy and the days are often long, but our Kentucky educators work tirelessly to ensure all students meet high expectations and acquire the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful in life.”
Cole said she was stunned when she heard her name called in an assembly that included her teaching colleagues and the student body.
“My mind just went blank and I was just in shock, because I just did not think they were awarding it to me,” Cole said. “There are so many great teachers at our school. So many people would have fulfilled what the Milken Foundation described as the winner of this award.”
Cole teaches Geometry, Algebra II and a dual-credit college algebra course at Scott High, where she has been on the faculty since 2008.
“I take the responsibility of the award, and hopefully I will continue to work hard for our kids and my colleagues here at Scott High School, but also know that I can reach more people in the state of Kentucky and also hopefully reach and mentor teachers across the country,” she said.
Beshear said she and her husband, Gov. Andy Beshear, were thrilled to celebrate one of 40 Milken Educator Award winners to be recognized during the 2019-2020 school year, and the only one from Kentucky.
“I am honored to congratulate Laura on being named a Milken Educator,” Beshear said. “Andy and I understand the valuable impact that educators have on the students that walk through their doors every day. This administration is committed to strengthening and lifting up education, and we are inspired by the work of dedicated teachers like Laura.”
Cole grew up in Louisville and attended Eastern High School (Jefferson County). She studied mathematics education and computer science at the University of Kentucky while earning her bachelor’s degree, and she earned a master’s degree in education from UK. She taught for one year in Tupelo, Miss., before coming to Scott High School.
Cole has elevated student performance in numeracy and literacy at Scott, and her students’ standardized test scores lead the Kenton County schools. She groups her 9th- and 10th-grade students by similar skill levels, adjusting the teams based on individual data, and uses online tutorials and Google Classroom throughout the year.
Cole serves on Scott’s school-based decision making council and runs the math department professional learning community. She spends significant time on professional development, regularly mentoring practicum students, student teachers and colleagues. Through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cole helps teachers across the district implement math standards and teaching strategies through workshops, classroom visits and modeling lessons via video.
“To grasp the impact Laura Cole has made on education, it’s important to look beyond the halls of Scott High School,” Gallagher said. “She’s improved student performance at the school while also being actively involved in districtwide efforts. We welcome the addition of her talent and energy to the National Milken Educator Network.”
Cole’s students see her as a mentor as well. On weekends she comes to school to help students prepare for the ACT. In conjunction with Kentucky State University, she co-teaches a distance learning dual-credit college algebra class.
The Milken Educator 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. Milken Educators are selected in the early to middle stages of their career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the cash prize and public recognition, the honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.
Cole and the other 2019-2020 award recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum March 26-28 in Indianapolis, where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, the Milken Educator Awards’ “Why Not Us” program will pair each 2019-2020 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy.
The Milken Family Foundation has presented more than 2,800 Milken Educator Awards since 1987, including 57 to Kentucky educators. The awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators.
For more information about Cole and links to photos and a video from today’s ceremony, visit the Milken Educator Awards website.