KEARNEY, Neb. (April 27, 2022) — Today in a surprise assembly, second grade teacher Michelle Fouts of Kearney’s Bryant Elementary received the surprise of a lifetime in front of cheering students, colleagues, state and local officials and media—a $25,000 Milken Educator Award presented by the Milken Family Foundation. The Award is bestowed annually upon outstanding educators across the country with two recipients in Nebraska this season. (The second will be presented tomorrow) Fouts was recognized for her commitment to excellence in literacy, creativity in the classroom, and efforts to foster a safe, nurturing environment to excel.
“Michelle Fouts’ dedication to student literacy and innovative approach to learning are inspiring and qualities that make her a Milken Educator,” said Stephanie Bishop, vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 2001 Milken Educator from Virginia. “We are proud to celebrate Michelle and highlight the impact she is making every day at Bryant Elementary. We are thrilled to welcome her into the national Milken Educator Network.”
Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken Educator Awards celebrate, elevate and activate the American teaching profession and inspire young, capable people to join it. The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award.
“Every educator knows the importance of early education in a child’s life,” says Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matthew Blomstedt. “Michelle Fouts takes that understanding to another level by not just focusing on teaching her second graders, but by taking a personal interest in who they are to make sure they are successful not only in the classroom but in life. Her dedication to her students is outstanding and we are thankful to have her leading the next generation.”
More About Michelle Fouts
Innovation: Fouts has a talent for finding imaginative, fun ways to promote excellence in literacy and encourage a lifelong love for language and reading in her students. These include Bryant’s Tournament of Books, family Reading Rallies, and “Books and Braids,” where students come to school early to read while getting their hair combed or braided. She incorporates best practices, including the Balanced Literacy Approach and Reading and Writing workshops, into her daily lessons and eagerly shares them with colleagues.
Leadership: Fouts has presented at a Nebraska state conference about the importance of literacy in the early grades, brought a renowned literacy expert to Bryant to work with teachers, and co-founded Hooked on Books ABC, a consulting firm focused on sharing early literacy strategies with other educators. As a resource for students and colleagues alike, Fouts is a grade-level and content coordinator for the district, serves on the curriculum council, leads the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports team and directs the district’s special education summer school. Prior to the start of school each year, Fouts teaches Burst into First Grade, an on-ramp program for at-risk students making sure children know their classroom family is a safe place. Fouts helped create Bryant’s STEM program for students in kindergarten through second grade, and oversees STEM learning for all students through fifth grade. She also piloted the Write Now Right Now program, a well-respected elementary writing program that used throughout the school.
Education: Fouts earned a bachelor’s in elementary, early childhood and special education in 2009 and a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2012 from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
More About the Milken Educator Awards: “The future belongs to the educated.”
Along with the $25,000 financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.