YARMOUTH — Seventh-grade mathematics and science teacher Morgan Cuthbert was named a 2011 Milken Educator and received $25,000 in a surprise ceremony on Monday.
Cuthbert, 35, has been teaching at Harrison Middle School since 2008. Previously, he taught in South Portland, Cumberland and at the Great American School in England.
Commissioner Steven Bowen of the Maine Department of Education presented Cuthbert with the award in front of Cuthbert’s colleagues, students and former Milken award winners.
“This a great honor,” Cuthbert said Monday. “I love the children and students, and it’s for you guys I come to work everyday.”
He said his colleagues and the administration help him to be a better teacher.
“You do this job because you love this job,” he said. “The recognition and the $25,000 is amazing and overwhelming.”
He said he and his wife have a 15-month old, and the money would be helpful in renovating their home for the next child.
“But, we’ve also talked about taking a trip before the next child, and that money would be helpful in that too,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools Judy Paolucci said Cuthbert is an “awesome teacher” who has a great relationship with the students.
“He is noted for using technology effectively to engage his students in the class,” she said. “He has helped to design the science curriculum, is self-reflexive and has a big picture view. He would never say, ‘this is good enough.'”
The Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award was created by education reform leader Lowell Milken to celebrate, elevate and activate exemplary educators. For the past 25 years the award has been given to teachers as a way to reiterate that quality teachers are the most important factor in determining student achievement.
Jennifer Pooler, the Maine Milken Educator Award coordinator, said the award has been limited this year to up to 40 educators across the county. Since its inception, there have been 70 recipients of the award in Maine. Most recently, Yarmouth High School fine arts teacher Melissa Noack won the award in 2005.
There is no formal application or nomination process, Pooler said. Every participating state’s department of education appoints a committee of former award winners, teachers, principals and business people to recommend up to three teachers for the award. The final selection is made by the Milken Family Foundation.
“The foundation wants to see teachers who have exceptional educational talent,” Pooler said.
They also must have accomplishments outside the classroom, be active in the community, and serve on statewide committees or have been published. The winner has to exhibit a positive impact on student learning, and show an added impact, like improving test scores, Pooler said.
Bruce Brann, principal of Harrison Middle School, said Cuthbert is not only an outstanding classroom teacher, but an outstanding leader. He said the award is “well deserved.”
“Morgan’s interaction with the students is top notch,” Brann said. “His classroom is always buzzing with activity. The students are using (math and science) vocabulary, they are solving problems, talking with each other and working collaboratively.”