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Johnson County teacher awarded $25,000 from Milken Family Foundation

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — Fourth grade math teacher, Angela Fowler thought it was just another Tuesday at Grassy Creek Elementary School in Greenwood. She believed a special assembly announced earlier would only be about the Indiana Department of Education speaking to the school about reading. She walked her students to the gymnasium, but started to suspect something was off.

“They started talking about people coming all the way from California, and then they had students holding up number posters that displayed $25,000. It was only when they started speaking about an award that I started wondering what was going on,” Fowler said.

Unbeknownst to Fowler, she was named a national Milken Educator Award honoree. The 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. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world.

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Jane Foley and Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner presented Fowler with the prestigious recognition which was met with cheers and applause from students, faculty and staff.

“I guess my body just went into a natural mode of when I heard my name I just started walking. It’s like I don’t really know what’s happening, but this is pretty cool,” Fowler said.

Fowler is the first recipient from the Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation.

“Exceptional educators engage their students through creativity and leadership, and Angela Fowler embodies these qualities in her classroom each day,” said Dr. Foley who is herself a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. “Her care and compassion create an environment where every student feels welcomed, valued and motivated to learn. I am proud to welcome Angela into our Milken Educator Award family and look forward to the contributions she will bring to our national network.”

“They called us all here to celebrate the power, the impact that our teachers make on kids. We’re here for reading. We’re here for math. We’re here because they love and care about you all more than you could ever know,” said Jenner with the IDOE. “You are one of our top teachers in Indiana.”

It’s because Fowler commands her room of fourth grade math students with high energy, high-impact lessons and high expectations that results in achieving high growth that she was recognized.

“I started realizing that math was just so much more than coming up with just jingles and rhymes to remember step by step producers. You can fall in love with numbers and fall in love with the idea of math and I think math can be scary for a lot of kids,” said Fowler.

Her “number talks” help students understand number patterns and find different ways to solve problems. Fowler incorporates the “I do, we do, you do” strategy and breaks the class into groups based on levels of understanding, continuously reviewing data and rearranging groups accordingly.

She uses a wide range of visual models to build understanding of math concepts and differentiates her practice to address each student’s needs. In turn, students’ fluency with math concepts soars: Last year, Fowler’s students grew from 8% mastery at the beginning of the year to 54% by the end.

She seeks out best practices, looking to improve her own instruction through webinars, podcasts and coaching. Fowler understands that relationships are key to student success and works with colleagues to meet the needs of all students, including those with individualized learning and language plans. She provides inclusion services to students with emotional disabilities, incorporating them in her classroom’s community circle time, joining them for lunch, and making sure they are included at recess.

Fowler goes to great lengths to connect with families, sharing what and how their children are doing in class and strategies for supporting their learning at home. She planned a math night for families, similar to what Grassy Creek has done for reading in the past, to introduce parents to the recently adopted math curriculum.

“You guys are the reason I do this,” said Fowler to students Tuesday. “Every single day. Even on those days when you wake up and they’re kind of tough, but you’re the reason why I come to school. Whenever I struggle and have some hard days and I see your faces I remember why I do what I do.”

Fowler doesn’t yet know what she’s going to do with her $25,000, but did say she wants to utilize it to further support her community.

Milken Educator Award honorees are set to attend an all-expenses-paid forum in Los Angeles in April 2023, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.