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Iowa’s 2017-18 Milken Educator Award goes to Joni Readout

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Joni Readout, a master teacher and planner at Central Decatur Junior-Senior High School, was completely caught off guard when she heard her name called as Iowa’s Milken Educator for the 2017-18 season. Readout is the first in the district to receive the prestigious honor, which comes with a $25,000 cash prize to use however she chooses.

Iowa Department of Education Director Dr. Ryan Wise and Central Decatur Community School District Superintendent Chris Coffelt joined the Milken Family Foundation in presenting the award to Readout in a gymnasium packed with her peers, students, dignitaries and media. 

The Nov. 29 event is part of the Milken Family Foundation’s major coast-to-coast tour surprising top educators at all-school assemblies with unrestricted $25,000 awards. Dr. Gary Stark, CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching and a 2001 Arkansas Milken Educator, bestowed the recognition upon Readout. She is among 44 Milken honorees for 2017-18.

“Teacher leaders play a crucial role in K-12 education today,” said Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. “As a master teacher, Joni Readout helps drive instruction in the school, working hand-in-hand with Secondary Principal Rudy Evertsen and the leadership team. Through intense planning, daily professional learning and a laser-focus on school goals, Joni works tirelessly with fellow faculty to refine classroom practices and raise student achievement growth. These skills, enhanced by her professionalism, care and compassion, make her worthy of the Milken Educator Award. I look forward to the knowledge and experiences she will bring to our national network of educators.”

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” has been opening minds and shaping futures for 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but also to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders.

Milken educators believe, “The future belongs to the educated.”

“Iowa has made a significant investment in teachers through the state’s teacher leadership system, which is about strengthening instruction and offering new career pathways,” said Wise. “It’s exciting to see a master teacher receive national recognition in one of the first school districts to implement a plan through Iowa’s teacher leadership system. Joni Readout and the Central Decatur Community School District are making a difference for the community and for Iowa.”

TAP Master Teacher Joni Readout is keenly focused on improving both instructional practices and student achievement at Central Decatur. As part of the school’s implementation of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, Readout plans and leads “clusters:” weekly professional learning meetings in which she shares effective teaching strategies she has researched and field-tested in the classroom, across multiple subjects. By studying the results of Readout’s field tests, teachers learn what worked and what didn’t with students before using the strategies in their own classes. Readout also worked with math teachers to study, develop and launch standards-based grading practices, an approach she is now introducing for other content areas. She is a fixture in the classrooms despite the fact she doesn’t have her own, jumping in to do whatever is needed: observing, modeling, team-teaching, pulling small groups or working with individual students.

Supported and managed by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, the TAP System is a comprehensive educator effectiveness model that provides opportunities for career advancement, professional growth, educator evaluation and performance-based compensation for educators; Central Decatur CSD adopted it in 2012. Readout was a mentor teacher at the elementary school before moving to Central Decatur Junior-Senior High, where she now serves as a master teacher. The small, rural school has shown consistent growth in student achievement.

Readout’s leadership role has extended beyond school walls. She is a member of the district’s TAP Advisory Board and takes a lead role when other Iowa districts send teams to the junior-senior high school to learn from the district’s experiences implementing the initiative. Central Decatur CSD was a model for the Iowa Teacher Leadership and Compensation System (TLC).

Readout has spoken about teacher leadership to the school administrators of Iowa and has presented about effective teacher evaluation strategies at district leadership meetings, helping teachers reframe classroom observations as opportunities for growth and reflection that support student learning. She is committed to continuous learning, seeking out strategies that will help her staff and students succeed and routinely participating in professional learning at the local, state and national levels. Readout is a certified Google educator, a leader on the district’s technology committee and has presented at the Iowa 1:1 conference and 21st Century Learner’s Conference about educational technology. 

An adjunct at Graceland University, Readout teaches an introductory education class to high school juniors and seniors, setting up students to join the ranks of the next generation of educators. The school’s former volleyball coach, Readout attends numerous sporting events and school functions. She encourages both students and teachers to reflect on their actions, learn from their mistakes, challenge themselves and never stop trying.

Readout is a graduate of Iowa State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2009 and a master’s in curriculum and instructional technology in 2015.

More information about Readout, plus links to photos and a video from the assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/joni-readout.

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