In a surprise ceremony Oct. 18, Katie Negen, a TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement master teacher at Slaton Junior High School in Slaton ISD, was presented with a 2017 Milken Educator Award.

The national award — which is often referred to as the “Oscars of Teaching” — recognizes exemplary elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

Another Texas teacher, Jennifer Fuller, a 10th and 11th grade English Language Arts teacher at Arlington Collegiate High School in Arlington ISD, also won a Milken Educator Award this year. The award comes with a $25,000 cash prize for each winner.

From left, Slaton Junior High School  Principal Jim Andrus; Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards; recipient Katie Negen; Texas State Senator Charles Perry; Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath; and Slaton Independent School District Superintendent Julee Becker. (Photo courtesy of the MILKEN FAMILY FOUNDATION)

“Jennifer Fuller and Katie Negan reflect the very best of the teaching profession in Texas,” said Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “Their hard work in the classroom, coupled with an ongoing commitment to student success, help illustrate why effective teachers deserve our respect and gratitude for helping shape the future of Texas.”

“Jennifer Fuller, a master of curriculum, puts a laser focus on depth and critical thinking — skills her students need to transition to college and career. Katie Negen’s role as part of her school leadership team helps to create a collaborative culture for teachers and students to learn and grow,” said Jane Foley, the senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards. “I warmly welcome Jennifer and Katie to the Milken Educator Network and look forward to their contributions.”

Both Fuller and Negen were selected not only for their outstanding work in the classroom, but also leadership on their campuses and within their school districts:

At Slaton Junior High School, Negen (a TCTA member since 2006) is a valuable asset to her school’s leadership team, working hand-in-hand with fellow master and mentor teachers and administrators. Her role is made possible through the implementation of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, an initiative of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET). Through her guidance as a TAP master teacher, Negen holds weekly professional learning sessions aimed at improving instructional practices in the classroom. Teachers critically analyze student data, field-test strategies with groups of students before transferring the learning to the classroom, and actively monitor students’ growth. Using this combined research, Negen conferences individually with teachers to develop action plans that address student needs. Coaching, follow-through and feedback are performed to assess the progress of their goals and adjust strategies as needed. In addition, her expertise was instrumental in a curriculum-writing initiative that aligned academic goals with state standards. Negen has shared her insights and experiences as a teacher leader with the national TAP network and members of the U.S. Department of Education. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Multidisciplinary Studies in 2007 from Texas Tech University.

Fuller plays a crucial role in the development of Arlington Collegiate High School, a unique four-year-old partnership with Tarrant County College. Designed for students who would not otherwise consider attending college, the school provides the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and dual-credit (up to an associate’s degree) within four years. Fuller continuously varies her approach to teach the essential elements of English to sophomores, and now juniors, through group work, presentations, discussions, and extensive reading and writing. Her instruction prompts critical thinking and problem solving as students explore concepts culturally relevant to their development. As a result, her classes have received the highest end-of-course exam scores in the district for two consecutive years. She is a peer coach to colleagues and conducts local and national staff development training as an AVID teacher and presenter, sharing key strategies that English and other subject teachers can employ in their classrooms. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 2001 from Texas Christian University and a Master of Education from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2003.

“Human capital is the beating heart of education,” said Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. “And developing strong human capital is not only the goal of education, it is the means of achieving that goal. For without vibrant, engaged, excellent educators — qualities epitomized by Jennifer Fuller and Katie Negen — there is little chance of producing students with those same attributes.”

Along with the fanfare and recognition, Fuller and Negen now belong to the Milken Educator Network of more than 2,700 K–12 teachers, principals and specialists from around the country. The network serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to strengthening education. The 2017-18 honorees will also attend an all-expenses paid Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., on March 20-23, 2018, where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal officials on the future of education.

The Milken Family Foundation first presented the Milken Educator Awards in 1987. Since that time, it has become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program and was dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine. More than $138 million in funding, including over $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. 

In Texas, 50 recipients have been presented with the Milken Educator Award since the program began here in 2000.

For information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit