Central-Decatur Teacher Chosen As One Of 44 Milken Award Honorees

Joni Readout, a master teacher and planner at Central Decatur Junior-Senior High School, was selected as one of 44 Milken honorees for 2017-18. Readout is the first in the district to receive the prestigious honor and comes with a $25,000 cash prize.

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.

“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.”

As Readout received the honor, emotions overwhelmed the educator and leader.

“I think I was just so shocked and humbled by the idea that someone was paying attention to the work that I was doing and especially it being an award that you are not nominated for, they seek you out,” Readout said. “I was just completely overwhelmed with emotions when someone had recognized me for my work.”

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. She has been teaching at Central-Decatur for nine years now. Teaching 7th and 8th grade reading, 6th grade math and then all subjects in 6th grade at the elementary. “Our school [Central-Decatur] was fortunate enough to be contacted for a federal grant through NIET and TAP System, [they] came to our school and we began using the TAP system in our teacher leadership program.”

The school began using the TAP System for their teacher leadership and Readout got involved by applying for the mentor teacher position, then working up to a master teacher. She has held the master teacher position for four years, though she prefers the title instructional coach.

Central-Decatur Community School District soon became an example for the other 333 school districts in Iowa. Being a member of the TAP Advisory Board, Readout had the opportunity to lead Central-Decatur CSD to be a Teacher Leadership and Compensation System (TLC) model for other Junior-Senior High Schools.

“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.”

At Central-Decatur they have instilled a development for teachers called “ clusters” meetings that she has utilized to strengthen teachers effectiveness and the success of students. 

“A lot of schools call them PLC meetings, but we call them clusters meetings. They are weekly professional development meetings that are job embedded, so our teachers come during their lunch hour,” Readout said. “So I teach professional development for an hour, two days a week.” Readout works with the grade 5-12 math teachers, along with the CTE and art teachers during her “clusters” meeting. “Its all about increasing teacher effectiveness and therefore increasing our students abilities and achievements,” Readout said.

Readout also teaches an Intro to Education course to juniors and seniors at high school. “Part of that was my want to influence students that are thinking about becoming a teacher. And so, I definitely incorporate a lot of the same learning that I provide for teachers during our cluster meetings in that,” said Readout. Beyond that, she has taken her experiences, teaching and knowledge to Graceland University student to share with them and help to see if education is a career that they want to delve into. 

As for the $25,000 cash prize, Readout isn’t quite sure what she will spend it on.

“I haven’t thought about much yet. I have to give credit to the students and staff I work with and the administration team that I work with for challenging me and pushing me. I want to have some sort of celebration, some of the kids joke about a pizza party,” said Readout. “But for the rest of it, I haven’t thought too much about where that money would go.”

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children’s education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

In the end, Readout extends thanks to numerous people who had a hand in her success. “I appreciate so much being recognized for the work that we do here at CD [Central-Decatur] and I appreciate it so very much. [I] thank all the people that have had an influence on me, from my professors at Iowa state to the people I work with here,” Readout said. “So I just want to give credit to all the other educators and hard working teachers that put in lots and lots of time so that our students can be successful.”

You can learn more about Joni Readout, Milken Educator awards, and the TAP System at: www.milkeneducatorawards.org

About the Milken Educator Awards

The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 30 years ago in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Readout’s honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2017-18 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 20-23, 2018. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about the importance of maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.




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