Rock Solid Success Merits Erika Klose a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

October 30, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — She does it for the oohs and aahs. Erika Klose loves giving her students the opportunity to imagine themselves in real science situations, whether it's a treasure hunt using GPS units, or turning her classroom into a water quality testing lab or wearing protective glasses to view the recent solar eclipse. They think they're having fun – she knows they're learning by experience.

However, the experience of a lifetime happened to Klose this morning as State Superintendent Dr. Steven Paine and Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley named her a 2017-18 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. Both Paine, in 1995 for West Virginia, and Foley, in 1994 for Indiana, are previous Milken Educator Awards recipients and can attest to the excitement that comes from an auditorium filled with cheering students and dignitaries when your name is announced.

Klose is the only Milken Educator Award winner from West Virginia this year, and is among up to 45 honorees for 2017-18 The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

Real-world applications and hands-on teaching methods are hallmarks of Klose's classroom practices. A National Board Certified teacher, Klose balances her lesson plans with lectures, activities, and reflection in order to make the subject matter engaging for all students. Integrating digital media with a focus on coding rounds out a curriculum dedicated to a STEM education fit for 21st centurylearners.

"Erika Klose was out in the science field and working in other areas before catching the bug of teaching. Her drive to teach middle school and make science education interesting and attainable to everyone is the type of leadership we see in Milken Educators," said Jane Foley. "She is shaping minds and making an impact through an experience-based and lab-oriented classroom for her young 'scientists.' We are proud of Erika's determination to have all students, especially girls, included in a burst of STEM opportunities available in her county and state."

"Ms. Klose has done so much to prepare West Virginia students for a lifetime of success and has empowered a new generation to follow their dreams and achieve their goals. Her work to get more Putnam County girls involved in STEM is particularly inspiring, and I know that many young women's lives will be forever changed because of Ms. Klose's encouragement and the example she sets for her students," said Senator Capito. "It's wonderful to see Ms. Klose's efforts recognized with this much-deserved honor. She truly is a shining example of a top-notch educator and role model, and West Virginia is so very lucky to call her one of our own."

"I couldn't be more thrilled for Erika to receive this incredible honor," said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools and past Milken Educators Awards winner, Dr. Steven Paine. "She has made significant contributions to West Virginia education and truly influences the lives of her students every day. She represents the type of teacher all West Virginia students deserve in their classroom."

"I know Ms. Klose, a National Board Certified teacher, is one of West Virginia's best, but this award shows she is one of the top educators in the nation," said Putnam County Superintendent, John Hudson. She has a unique ability to inspire a love of science in the students she serves. Each time I visit her classroom, I am amazed at the passion she displays for science and each student she serves."

About Milken Educator Erika Klose

Science teacher Erika Klose is on a mission: to get more Putnam County kids, especially girls, thinking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. She presents engaging, student-centered lessons in her classroom at Winfield Middle School (WMS), incorporating technology and focusing on hands-on experiments that encourage students to own their learning. Klose's students won $10,000 for classroom supplies during last year's Day of Coding and consistently bring home awards from schoolwide, county and regional science fairs. She recruited U.S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito and Toyota, a large local employer, to join the school for an assembly about women in STEM, then took a group of girls to a career center to encourage them to explore STEM career options often thought of as traditionally male roles.

A leader at WMS, Klose provides guidance and continuing education for the school's science teachers, serves as president of the Faculty Senate, and started student clubs for mapping and coding. Colleagues look to Klose for guidance for science matters and beyond. She is a member of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and National Association of Geoscience Teachers, as well as president-elect of the West Virginia Science Teachers Association, and has served on several state science curriculum committees. Klose has presented at national NSTA conferences, the Esri Educational Users Conference and the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference. A trained geologist, she worked for the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, before entering the classroom.

Klose earned a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Smith College in 1997, a master's in geological sciences in 1999 from Lehigh University, and a master's in teaching in 2007 from Marshall University.

More information about Klose, plus links to photos and a video from today’s assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

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, Klose'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 maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

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.

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You can learn more about the Milken Educator Awards by visiting or calling MFF at (310) 570-4772.

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