A woman covers her face in surprise while another woman smiles next to her.

Jessica Goodman, a kindergarten through 5th grade Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher at Farmer Elementary School (Jefferson County), was surprised with the $25,000 Milken Educator Award on April 22, 2022. Photo by Milken Family Foundation.

Jessica Goodman, a kindergarten through 5th grade Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher at Farmer Elementary School (Jefferson County), was celebrated on April 22 as the latest Kentucky educator to receive the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.

Goodman was presented 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 Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass, Gov. Andy Beshear and Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop. Kentucky Board of Education member Sharon Porter Robinson also attended the ceremony.

“I am so happy to be in Jefferson County today with the Milken Foundation to celebrate Jessica Goodman, one of Kentucky’s outstanding educators,” said Glass. “Mrs. Goodman engages her students through their interests with creative and innovative practices and promotes a culture of continuous improvement and resilience. Above all, she leads her classroom with empathy, making sure each and every student feels worthy of her attention and time.”

“Thank you all so much for your cheers and your smiles. I’m nervous to be up here, you all giving me those smiles is making me feel much better,” said Goodman. 

Goodman has taught at Farmer Elementary since 2013.

“We have the best staff here at Farmer. I started my career here and I love it,” she said. “Thank you all for coming in and trying new things and working so hard. I’m overwhelmed and honored to receive this award.”

Goodman is the second Kentucky educator to receive the prestigious award this school year. Kevin Dailey, an 8th-grade US history teacher, was awarded the Milken Educator award on Feb. 23.

Beshear said he was excited to join everyone in celebrating Goodman and all Kentucky teachers.

“I am honored to congratulate Jessica on being named a Milken Educator,” said Beshear. “Teachers like Jessica have worked tirelessly to create new ways of learning for students. They are engaged and enjoy what Mrs. Goodman teaches because of the level of care and dedication she instills in each of her lessons. She works tirelessly to ensure every Farmer Elementary student achieves at a high level and is valued.

“Our administration is committed to strengthening and lifting up education and we are inspired by the work of dedicated teachers like Jessica. Teachers benefit everyone in Kentucky by educating our future workforce. I hope she can serve as an inspiration for all current and future educators.”

Goodman earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Louisville and a master’s degree in teacher leadership from Bellarmine University. She is currently working on a master’s degree in instructional leadership at Spalding University. Goodman has spent her entire teaching career at Farmer Elementary, having previously served as a special education teacher and a 1st grade teacher.

Students in Goodman’s classroom are given the chance to explore STEM curriculum through innovative and creative instructional practices. Through “Get Your Geek On with Mrs. Goodman,” Goodman and students participate in experiments and challenges students can do at home, such as Skittles Rainbow Experiment, Cup Stack Challenge, Dissolving Candy Experiment, Building a Creature Catcher, Colorful Chemical Reactions and Notecard Tower Challenge.

Goodman coordinates an annual family STEM night at Farmer Elementary that has doubled in size and attendance. The last time it was hosted in-person 300 families attended. She regularly collaborates with community partners, such as the Kentucky Science Center Idlewild Butterfly Farm and the Parklands, on STEM content and methodology to help students understand real-world STEM-related issues.

Students leave Goodman’s classroom with a strong foundation for thinking critically and creatively, communicating effectively and working collaboratively.

Goodman’s influence reaches beyond the classroom. In 2016, Goodman and students created the Junior Beta Robotics Team, which won the Kentucky State championships for the last four years and were National Champions in 2017 and 2019.

“Students have the opportunity to bring STEM to life with the team’s robots – Skit, Mr. Metal and BB3 – and get to experience the thrill of their hard work paying off,” said Glass. “Mrs. Goodman’s support of academic endeavors outside of the classroom help students develop critical thinking, decision making and problem-solving skills.”

In addition to her role as the robotics team sponsor, Goodman serves as a quick recall coach, academic coordinator and written assessment coach. She is a Google Level 1 certified educator and serves on the school’s site-based decision making committee.

Goodman serves as a schoolwide leader through her role as the school technology coordinator. She assisted with a two-year technology overhaul project, which included installing SMART panels and going one-to-one with Chromebooks, which means every student gets their own device to complete schoolwork. She was instrumental in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in assisting students and their families with device distribution and maintenance during school closures.

“While the pandemic altered instruction across the nation, nothing stopped Jessica Goodman from showing up for her students and finding new ways to reach them,” said Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop, who is herself a 2001 Milken Educator from Virginia. “By reframing educational challenges as opportunities to refine her practices today, Jessica demonstrates the persistence and passion of a Milken Educator.”

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.

Goodman, Dailey and the other award recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum, where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, they enter the Milken Friends Forever mentoring program, in which freshman 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.

The Milken Family Foundation has presented more than 2,800 Milken Educator Awards since 1987, including 59 to Kentucky educators. The awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators.

For more information about Goodman and links to photos and a video from today’s ceremony, visit the Milken Educator Awards website.