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Check presentation, from left to right, East End Prep Charter Executive Director Jim Leckrone, Tennessee Charter School Center Chief Executive Officer Maya Bugg, recipient Shelly Gaughan, Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen, and Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. Photo by the Milken Family Foundation.

Shelly Gaughan, a kindergarten teacher at East End Prep in Nashville, Tennessee, was shocked to find out the all-school assembly was not being held to dedicate a new playground, but to celebrate her own dedication to her students.

Gaughan was chosen as a recipient for the 2018 Milken Educator Award—considered the “Oscar Award of Teaching”—by the Milken Family Foundation last Friday.

In 2010, Gaughan received her bachelor’s degree from the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences and stayed for an additional year to receive her master’s degree.

“For almost three decades, UT’s teacher preparation programs have employed a fifth-year internship model to prepare highly skilled and knowledgeable teachers,” said Sherry Mee Bell, department head of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education. “UT consistently receives strong praise from K–12 school administrators on the preparedness of its graduates.”

Since 1987, when the Milken Educator award began, the college has had 15 alumni receive the honor. The award is to reward and inspire excellence in the world of education by honoring top early-to-mid career educators around the country.

Recipients of the award receive $25,000 to use at their discretion.

“The Milken Educator Award is a prestigious honor for our educators receive,” said Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. “The award is a true testament to the quality of the teacher preparation programs within our college.”

Other alumni to be named recipients of the Milken Educator Award include:

  • 2017: Paula Franklin (’10, ’11), AP government at West High School, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 2014: Michelle Johnson (’06), second grade at Seaton Elementary School, Washington, DC
  • 2010: Ashley Kear Miller (’05, ’06), fourth grade at Dogwood Elementary School, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 2007: Jonathan Rysewyk (’96,’99), assistant principal at Fulton High School, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 2003: Louis Gallo (’93), 11th- and 12th-grade history at West High School, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 2001: Clifford Davis Jr. (’93, ’95), principal at Cedar Bluff Middle School, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 2000: Kathleen B. Jones (’76, ’88), principal at South Clinton Elementary School, Clinton, Tennessee
  • 1999: Joel Giffin (’78), principal at Maryville Middle School, Maryville, Tennessee
  • 1999: Sharon Robinson (’76, ’95, ’00), teacher at Northwest Middle School, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 1999: Carson Stanton (’71), principal at Dalton High School, Dalton, Georgia
  • 1993: Donna Hardy (’79, ’88), teacher at Bearden Middle School, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 1993: Diana (Wright) Rutherford (’78), teacher at Maryville High School, Maryville, Tennessee
  • 1993: Frank Vanzant (’71, ’74, ’79), teacher at Tullahoma High School, Tullahoma, Tennessee
  • 1989: Mary Laycock (’65), teacher at Nueva Center for Learning, Hillsborough, California.


Jules Morris (865-719-7072,