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Alumna earns Milken Educator Award for exceptional work

Friday, November 19, 2010
Alumna earns Milken Educator Award for exceptional work
By Dan Bodene, contributing writer

OU alumna Patty Paxton has been awarded one of the “Oscars of Teaching” for her work as an exemplary K-12 educator.

Oakland University alumna Patty Paxton (third from left) at her Milken Teaching Award presentation with, from left: state Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan, Armada Area Schools Superintendent Arnie Kummerow and (far right) state Board of Education President Kathleen Straus.
Paxton was one of 55 teachers nationwide who earned a 2010 Milken Educator Award, given to outstanding teachers who show exceptional educational talent and accomplishments. She teaches fifth grade at Krause Later Elementary School in the Armada (Mich.) Area School District.

“She has a great sense of humor, an incredible work ethic and sets high standards for her students,” said Michael Flanagan, Michigan’s superintendent of public instruction. “Her instructional practices reflect the very best in teaching excellence and achievement.”

Reacting to the honor, Paxton said, “This is one of the most significant awards an educator is able to receive, and I am greatly humbled that I was chosen. I am very grateful that the Milken organization is so committed to supporting the education profession and that a primary purpose for this group is to promote teaching and to help attract top candidates into teaching.”

While initially working in the medical field, Paxton decided to follow a different career interest. “When I was in first grade I knew I wanted to teach; it just took me awhile to get there,” she admitted. She completed Oakland University's post-baccalaureate teacher certification program in winter 2003.

“It was a perfect match for me and I attribute many of my instructional practices to the program, in that I learned from the professors, but I also learned many strategies from my fellow students in the cohort,” Paxton said.

Paxton’s research- and data-driven approach has led to the greatest improvements in student achievement among all classes at Krause Later Elementary. In fact, Michigan Education Assessment Program scores in math and English language arts showed a 46 percent improvement in 2009. Also noteworthy is that her students all reach benchmarks in reading and math skills each year.

Paxton mixes project-based learning with practical skills. For example, her students build toy cars to test scientific methods and illustrate poetry books to learn about language use. She also created a “homework club” for students to study and learn together.

Paxton provides summer assignments to second- through fifth-graders to ensure they practice skills learned during the school year. She also holds workshops for parents and serves on the district math committee and school improvement team.

The Milken Educator Awards, called the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher Magazine, has honored more than 2,400 K-12 teachers, principals and specialists with more than $60 million in awards since their inception in 1987. Paxton received a $25,000 award.

The awards have no nomination or application process. Every participating state’s department of education appoints an independent committee to recommend candidates based on stringent criteria. Final selections are made by the Milken Family Foundation.

In spring 2011, Paxton will join other award winners at the Milken Educator Forum in Santa Monica, Calif., to explore how to build teacher effectiveness and share strategies for helping students. Paxton also will be inducted into the Milken Educator Network, dedicated to reforming and strengthening K-12 education in the United States.

For more information on OU’s teaching certification programs, visit the School of Education and Human Service website. For more information on the Milken Educator awards, visit the organization’s website.