Hampton teacher Melonee Ginn earns $25K Milken Educator Award

Published: Nov. 24, 2014 at 8:42 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 24, 2014 at 8:42 PM EST
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HAMPTON CO., SC (WTOC) - An all-school assembly turned into the surprise of a lifetime for Melonee Ginn, a fifth-grade teacher at Hampton Elementary School in Hampton, South Carolina, when she was presented with an unrestricted $25,000 Milken Educator Award before students, fellow colleagues and dignitaries.

Ginn is one of up to 40 recipients across the country this school year who will be receiving the honor during the 2014-15 season and the only one in South Carolina. The Milken Award recognizes exemplary elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

"We've been presenting these awards for almost 30 years because we believe—and the research proves it—that educators represent the most important school-based factor in raising student achievement," said Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation (MFF) and a creator of the Awards program. "The very public nature of each surprise notification, and the excitement as students see their teacher celebrated as an inspiring role model, influences young people to consider teaching as a worthy career option."

Among the officials joining in today's assembly were National Institute for Excellence in Teaching President and Milken Educator (AR '01) Dr. Gary Stark, South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Dr. Mick Zais and Hampton District One Superintendent Dr. Douglas E. McTeer, Jr.

Along with the recognition typically bestowed to recipients, Ginn now belongs to a network of more than 2,600 K-12 teachers, principals and specialists from around the country.

Ginn has been teaching in Hampton District One for the past ten years, seven at Wade Hampton High School and three at Hampton Elementary School.

Described as a born leader, Ginn is dedicated to the progress and development of every student. She has served as a mentor teacher on the school leadership team for TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement and is currently a TAP career (classroom) teacher. The TAP System is a robust model that allows educators to take on extra roles and responsibilities, receive job-embedded professional development and feedback for improvement, as well as competitive compensation. In addition to her classroom responsibilities, Ginn is a leader within the school.

For her own students, Ginn puts a laser-like focus on thinking, problem-solving and applying learning across disciplines. This requires strategic planning aligned to standards and differentiating instruction based on everyone's abilities, areas of strengths and areas needing refinement. Through it all, Ginn makes a point to make learning fun, even with the most difficult material. One way she motivates students is through a system in which they earn tickets for good behavior. They can then use these tickets to choose rewards from a menu of items they helped to create.

Due to her efforts, her students have made more than a year's growth based on value-added student achievement data, and her students' English Language Arts scores represent some of the greatest gains in the school.

At the school level, Ginn is chair of the Implementation and Data Team, a strong collaborator and encourages her colleagues to be reflective about their practice. Her classroom is used as a model for others, and Ginn believes that parental involvement is paramount. Along with her commitment to educating the "whole child," Ginn encourages her students to participate in Relay for Life to help them become caring adults.

For photos and video of Ginn receiving her Milken Educator Award, visit http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/melonee-ginn.

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