Special to 1808Delaware

Shanahan Middle School’s students are no stranger to academic success thanks in large part to eighth grade mathematics teacher Marissa McCarthy’s efforts. A former sixth grade math teacher, McCarthy now lends her knowledge to the older students, utilizing unique project-based learning experiences across the curriculum. Today, McCarthy was surprised with the first-ever Milken Educator Award in Olentangy Local School District history, earning national recognition – and an unrestricted $25,000 financial prize – forever leaving her mark on American K-12 education from Lewis Center.

Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher and Ohio Department of Education and Workforce Interim Director Jessica Voltolini presented McCarthy with the prestigious national honor at an all-school assembly filled with excited students, colleagues, dignitaries and media. Bestowed by the Milken Family Foundation, the Award recognizes outstanding K-12 educators for their excellence and leadership in the profession.

“Marissa McCarthy expertly demonstrates how data-driven, project-based instruction benefits learners at every level,” said Gallagher. “Her ability to address individual needs to achieve growth in the classroom and beyond makes her a wonderful addition to the Milken Educator Network. Congratulations, Marissa. I am excited to see where you ‘grow’ from here.”

Milken Educator Award recipients are completely unaware of their candidacy and cannot apply for the Award. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the Award.

“Marissa McCarthy is dedicated to creating learning opportunities that prepare students for success. She pinpoints real-world learning connections, challenges students to advance their knowledge and engages them through relevant and fun project-based learning,” said Jessica Voltolini, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce. “Congratulations to Marissa on being recognized as a Milken Educator Award recipient and thank you for making a difference in Olentangy Schools.”

McCarthy is the second and final Ohio Milken Educator recipient this season. She joins Ryan Gilbert, who received his Award today at Ohio Hi-Point Career Center in Bellefontaine. Both McCarthy and Gilbert are among up to 75 recipients across the country who will be honored as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s historic, nationwide tour reaching the presentation of the 3,000th Milken Educator in 2024.

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” 2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to “Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate” the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career.

More About Marissa McCarthy

Sparking Student Engagement: Eighth grade students are always buzzing around Marissa McCarthy’s math classroom at Shanahan Middle School, engaging in real-life lessons and navigating their way through rigorous and relevant curriculum. A former sixth grade math teacher, McCarthy’s impactful instructional strategies have contributed in large part to Shanahan’s high performance. She utilizes project-based learning (PBL) and differentiates instruction to strengthen student engagement. Students can be seen in small groups and rotating math stations, focusing on particular areas of need determined by pre-assessment data. Striving to make math fun for students, McCarthy encourages classroom collaboration and spends time outside of school hours providing extra assistance. She organizes her team’s annual PBL Olympics, where classes compete against each other in challenges targeting different core content areas. One of McCarthy’s previous math activities led students to connect a tangible and realistic activity — such as mixing paint — to mathematical ratios. In pairs, students worked to solve the ratio problems, then mixed paint based on their solutions. Together, they celebrated their success by creating a class banner using all of the newly mixed paints. 

Encouraging Schoolwide Collaboration: Keeping her eye on the big picture, McCarthy consistently discovers new ways to take her instruction to the next level and values the opportunity to test new strategies in the classroom, including several outlined in Peter Liljedahl’s book, “Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics,” which the math department covered in a book study. Before her move to eighth grade, McCarthy attended a summer conference in Atlanta to fully immerse herself in the algebraic curriculum she would soon be teaching. A skilled problem-solver herself, McCarthy serves as Shanahan’s technology chair and organizes school Chromebooks, orders new technology, and provides technical support and professional development for her colleagues. Additionally, she is a valued member of the school building’s leadership team and contributes her knowledge and professionalism through mentorship of new teachers.

Shaping Young Community Leaders: McCarthy’s mentorship extends throughout the student body, as she often helps students enhance their personal growth outside of the classroom and connects with parents and families to build a strong foundation of support for each student. Additionally, she started a club at Shanahan serving girls interested in math and science, hoping to inspire future careers in STEM.  

Education: McCarthy earned a Bachelor of Science in education from Bowling Green State University in 2008 and a Master of Science in education from the University of South Florida in 2012.

More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: “The Future Belongs to the Educated”

  • The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in June 2024, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.
  • Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children. 

Follow the Milken Educator Awards tour and use the #MEA3K and #MilkenAward hashtags on: Facebook (MilkenEducatorAwards) | X (Milken) | YouTube (MilkenAward) | Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn) | LinkedIn (MilkenFamilyFdn) | TikTok (MilkenAward).

Visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772 for more information.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Created by Lowell Milken, 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. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. The Milken Family Foundation celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at MFF.org.

Source, Photo: Milken Educator Awards

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