Stuart-Hobson Middle School students, teachers and local DC Public School officials erupted into cheers on Tuesday, Oct. 29 as their beloved art teacher, Claire Smullen, was presented with the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Milken Educator Award.
Known for her innovation, Smullen was lauded for integrating art into all aspects of the school in order to empower students and unify the community.
Milken Education Award Co-Founder Michael Milken effusively praised Smullen’s work. “Claire Smullen inspires her students to achieve their highest potential, empowering them to think creatively, act independently and expand their curiosity about the world,” he said at the event. “Her affirmative impact on their lives is permanent and profound.”
Milken awardees are traditionally surprised with the award. The assembly at Stuart Hobson (410 E St. NE), one of three DCPS middle schools in Ward 6, was attended by D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang, Milken Family Foundation President and Co-Founder Mike Milken and previous Milken Award winners.
The assembly provided evidence for Dr. Ferebee’s observation that ‘Stuart-Hobson continues to be the shining star of DC public schools.’ A boisterous performance by the Stuart-Hobson band kicked off the event and the Stuart-Hobson choir followed with a celebratory song that increased the audience’s excitement.
To an energized crowd of students and staff, Milken revealed the surprise agenda of the assembly and explained the purpose of the award. “I believe that teachers, educactors, principals, superintendents…play the most important role in society. We do not thank our teachers enough. DCPS Chancellor Dr. Ferebee revealed that it was Claire Smullen who was one of only forty national 2019-2020 Milken Award winners at an all-school assembly. Smullen covered her face in disbelief as she walked past cheering students and colleagues to receive the $25,000 check.
The prestigious Milken Award recognizes teachers around the country that demonstrate excellence and a promising future in education. The award is given to teachers who are in the beginning or middle of their careers and celebrates the potential that the teachers have to offer. Along with twenty-five-thousand dollars, the awardees are given professional development opportunities and inducted into a community of educators, called the Milken Educator Network. This year, awardees will also be paired with a veteran Milken Education mentor and attend a forum in Indianapolis.
The Milken Educator Award is part of the Milken Family Foundation, founded by Lowell and Michael Milken. The first award was given in 1987, and more than four-hundred-fifty million dollars has gone into the program, with more than seventy million in the cash award and more than two-thousand-eight-hundred awards have been given out. Each year, awards are given to either elementary or secondary schoolteachers or this year the focus will be on secondary school teachers.
Fourteen District educators have previously received the award, including most recently Principal Rachel Tommelleo from Center City Public Charter Schools’ Brightwood Campus in 2018.