Despite a foundation in pandemic-driven hybrid and remote instruction, Kristen Maurer’s kindergartners at Midvale Elementary School will head into first grade primed for success. With her students boasting an impressive toolbelt of social and academic skills, from above-grade level reading abilities to self-esteem and kindness, it’s no question why people call her “Maurer Power.” That impact was celebrated in full force today when Maurer became a recipient of a Milken Educator Award at a surprise school assembly in front of enthusiastic students, educators, local and state education officials, and journalists.

Maurer was presented with the national recognition, which includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize, by Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher and Interim Ohio State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Stephanie K. Siddens. Out of over 60 recipients this school year, Maurer is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Ohio and the first from Indian Valley Local Schools, where she is a graduate herself.

“Kristen Maurer represents the kind of educator students need now more than ever,” Gallagher said. “No matter their level of preparation, all of Kristen’s students are motivated to learn thanks to the care and dedication she models. We look forward to the continued contributions Kristen will bring to the Midvale community and our national network by mentoring other teachers and driving teaching practices that advance the whole child.”

Known to her colleagues as expressive, caring and genuine, Maurer makes learning interactive and fun – even through remote and hybrid learning – by prioritizing differentiated instruction to fit student needs. She balances science-backed literacy instruction with character-building to prepare students for success in school and life. Beyond the classroom, Maurer channels her passion and energy back into the community at large by working on PTO committees to coordinate holiday activities, fundraisers and community outreach.

“I’m thrilled to congratulate Kristen Maurer on receiving this year’s Milken Family Foundation Award! Few life skills are as important as reading, and Ms. Maurer is a shining example of so many Ohio teachers who ensure their students have all the ingredients needed to become lifelong readers,” said Dr. Siddens. “The enthusiasm, commitment and compassion she brings to school daily are evident in everything she does. She is changing lives every day and I couldn’t be happier to join in honoring her today.”

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The Awards are not designated for lifetime achievement. 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.

Oprah, a longtime education advocate, offered her congratulations to this year’s winners in a video message shared earlier this year thanking “the most incredible educators around the country” and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the “tireless work” they do.

More About Kristen Maurer

Empowering Every Child: “They are my world!” says Maurer of her students—and it shines through in her efforts to empower each child and close achievement gaps. Her classroom has become known as a place where students of all abilities, regardless of physical, cognitive or emotional vulnerabilities, can thrive. She developed an after-school tutoring program, “Building Better Braves,” to close achievement gaps by offering extra help to students. More than three-quarters of Maurer’s students meet expected levels of learning on MAP assessments, and many end the year performing one or more years ahead. Every one of Maurer’s former students has gone on to pass Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

Hands-on Learning: Maurer incorporates Fundations, a reading program that aligns with the Orton-Gillingham principles of phonics and phonological awareness, as well as the Daily 5™ framework to encourage students to read independently, work in pairs and practice writing. She plans engaging field trips: The class visited a local pet shop for lessons in literacy, math and interpersonal interaction, then returned to school and set up their own “pet shop” in the classroom to practice their new skills.

Cultivating Character: Maurer considers social-emotional learning just as important as letters and numbers. Each day, students choose one of five behaviors they want to focus on: walking feet, safe hands, listening ears, watching eyes, kind words. The class sings songs about respecting and caring for one another, paired with kinesthetic hand motions to improve retention. Every week, Maurer chooses one student to stand at the door greeting classmates with their choice of a handshake, hug or high five. The coveted position builds both self-esteem and critical social skills like listening, empathy and understanding.

Leadership Beyond the Classroom: A graduate of Indian Valley schools and raised in a family of educators, Maurer has gone on to lead Midvale’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team. When Midvale’s early grades moved to standards-based reporting, she helped develop the scales for each standard. Maurer has led professional development on conscious discipline and mentors teachers for the school’s Resident Educator Program. She was in the first cohort as a Teacher Leader to establish professional learning communities (PLCs) and now leads the Midvale kindergarten teaching staff in analyzing student data and setting goals for reading, math, and writing.

Education: Maurer earned a bachelor’s in early childhood education in 2014 from Ashland University.

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