"Our public education system is at the heart of America's promise and is essential in safeguarding the American dream for future generations. With research confirming that an effective teacher is the single most important school-related factor in raising student achievement, it is clear to see the critical role that outstanding teachers play in shaping our country," said MFF Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken, who presented the award. "We created the Milken Educator Awards to proclaim in a very public way that greatness in education must be recognized and rewarded. As the program's motto extols, 'the future belongs to the educated.' Manuel Rustin is an education game-changer who empowers students and teachers to exceed their own expectations of what is possible. He is an inspiration and example for communities, policymakers, and students who may be inspired to enter the profession, and for all of our nation's K-12 educators."
Mr. Rustin, the lead teacher for John Muir High's Arts, Entertainment and Media (AEM) College & Career Pathway was instrumental in the overall redesign of the school four years ago into academies, and the AEM Pathway became certified in June 2011. In the four years since its reinvention, John Muir High School's academic performance index has risen by 78 points, graduation rates and attendance rates have improved, and the school has produced three Gates Millennium Scholarship winners.
"One of the main things I love about Muir is how many great teachers we have," said Mr. Rustin before a cheering audience. "The award itself is an honor, but the greatest honor is being part of the Mustang family and teaching Mustangs how to get where they want to go. There's not a moment that I regret choosing to teach, and to come to Muir. Four years ago, students, families, and staff came together and turned things around, and this award celebrates what we've accomplished. As a teacher, it's all about working with students like you, connecting with you and motivating you to do your best."
This year marks MFF's 25th anniversary recognizing and rewarding America's top teachers with what Teacher Magazine deems "the Oscars of Teaching." The Awards program was conceived by Lowell Milken to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and encourage talented young people to enter the teaching profession. Unlike most teaching awards, the Milken Educator Awards has no formal nomination or application process. Each year exceptional teachers, principals and specialists-recommended without their knowledge by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by each state's department of education-are surprised with the news of their awards.
As lead teacher for John Muir High's Arts, Entertainment and Media (AEM) College & Career Pathway, Mr. Rustin creates such a stimulating environment that when he offered a state test prep boot camp after school for a group of 30 students, 60 lined the halls ready to go. Rustin made room for them all. His teaching effectiveness is characterized by an innovative approach to instruction which has motivated higher thinking skills, increased peer learning relationships and strengthened ties between the curriculum and real world. Standout projects have been to create songs and performances about the Constitution and establish Facebook profiles for historical figures.
Mr. Rustin drives his students to think independently and prepares them for college. In his classes, they become versed in performing self-assessments and charting goals. Mr. Rustin conducts his own assessments of students at the beginning, middle and end of the year. In a school that had traditionally been underperforming, his students are seeing noticeable gains in achievement.
In addition to his daily duties, Mr. Rustin is responsible for coordinating student recruitment and internships for his College & Career Pathway as well as providing professional development for fellow staff. He is a member of the school's leadership team and its Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) site team, as well as a lead trainer for Thinking Maps-a common visual language and graphic organizing system for note-taking-now in every classroom.
The Awards story doesn't end with the surprise notification. New recipients are invited to join the Milken Educator Network, a group of distinguished educators whose expertise serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others shaping the future of education.
Since first presented to a dozen California teachers, the Milken Educator Awards program has grown to become the nation's preeminent teacher recognition program having honored more than 2,500 teachers, principals and specialists with over $63 million in individual, unrestricted $25,000 awards. More than $135 million has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout the recipients' careers in education. The exponential impact of the more than 2,500 outstanding teachers has helped to reform American K-12 education. The Milken Awards alternates yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Each participating state department of education appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to review candidates that are sourced through a confidential selection process and recommend candidates to the Foundation.
Candidates for the Milken Educator Awards are selected on the basis of the following criteria:
- Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school;
- Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession;
- Individuals whose contributions to education are largely unheralded yet worthy of the spotlight;
- Early- to mid-career educators who offer strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and
- Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.
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