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An alumna of the Department of Political Science was surprised last week with a $25,000 national award for excellence in teaching.

Michelle Johnson, a 2006 UT graduate and second-grade teacher, received the Milken Educator Award for her work at Seaton Elementary School in Washington, DC.

She is the first educator to receive the award this year. The Milken Educator Awards, created in 1987, provide public recognition and a $25,000 individual financial reward to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. They may be early in their career or midway through.

During Johnson’s first year at Seaton Elementary—located a short distance from the White House in the historic Shaw neighborhood—her students had serious academic deficits. Through her efforts, her students have excelled, gaining at least five book levels with many having double-digit growth. Almost all Seaton students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, and 45 percent are English language learners.

Following her time at UT, Johnson earned a Master of Professional Studies in political management from the George Washington University. After working for a political polling firm, a lobbying firm, and on Capitol Hill as a legislative correspondent for a house member, she transitioned into the classroom through the New Teacher Project. She has taught in Maryland, overseas in Abu Dhabi, and now for DC Public Schools.