JCPS Teacher Wins Prestigious Milken Educator Award

Farmer Elementary has surprise celebration

Jessica Goodman, a STEM lab teacher at Farmer Elementary School, got the surprise of her life today when she was presented the prestigious Milken Educator Award. The recognition comes with an unrestricted $25,000 award.

Goodman, along with every teacher and student at Farmer, packed into the school gymnasium to see and hear from Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, Education Commissioner Jason Glass and Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio about, what they thought was going to be, a program touting Farmer’s literacy efforts. But it was Stephanie Bishop from the Milken Family Foundation who stole the show, revealing “the secret” and announcing to squeals and applause that Goodman had won the national award.

Jessica Goodman expresses surprise at hearing her name announced

“I had no idea” Goodman said after the ceremony. “I was shocked. I’m still in shock.”       

Known as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the national award recognizes teaching excellence, and seeks to inspire educators, students and communities about the importance of joining the education profession. Goodman is one of two Kentucky teachers to receive the recognition during the 2021-2022 school year. 

“We’re delighted that the Milken Family Foundation is, rightfully, recognizing Jessica Goodman with this award” Pollio said. “She is a great representative of all the outstanding teachers in JCPS.”

Described by colleagues as a dedicated, hands-on educator who makes learning fun, the award was a fitting recognition for the teacher who created “Get Your Geek On,” a series of quirky, engaging science experiments that students could do at home during remote learning.

“Teachers like Jessica have worked tirelessly to create new ways of learning for students,” Beshear said. “They are engaged and enjoy what Mrs. Goodman teaches because of the level of care and dedication she instills in each of her lessons. I hope she can serve as an inspiration for all current and future educators.”  

As Farmer’s technology coordinator, Goodman has worked to improve access to technology for all students. When schools were shuttered in the early days of the pandemic and technology became a vital lifeline to keeping students engaged, she coordinated the distribution and maintenance of Chromebooks. She coached colleagues through the often unfamiliar web of Google Meet and Google Classroom. And when she noticed participation in online lessons lagging among English language learners (ELL), Goodman developed a plan to reach them that included collaborating with English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers, classroom teachers and families.

Beyond accessibility, Goodman strives to make science fun. Attendance at the school’s annual STEAM night has more than doubled since she began coordinatingthe event . More than 300 families showed up last year to make aluminum foil boats and slime, program robots, produce digital art, work with 3-D printers, view constellations on iPads, and take pictures in a green screen “mad scientist” photo booth.

Jessica Goodman and others standing behind large $25,000 check

“Students have the opportunity to bring STEM- to life with the team’s robots, Skit, Mr. Metal and BB3, and get to experience the thrill of their hard work paying off” said Jason Glass, Kentucky Commissioner of Education. “Goodman’s support of academic endeavors outside of the classroom help students develop critical thinking, decision making and problem-solving skills.”

Goodman founded and coaches Farmer’s Junior Beta robotics team, leading the group to four Kentucky Junior Beta state championships and top honors at the National Junior Beta Convention twice. In addition, she serves as Farmer’s Quick Recall coach, academic coordinator and written assessment coach, is a Google Level 1 certified educator and serves on the school’s Site Based Decision Making committee.

Goodman has spent her entire teaching career at Farmer. When asked about her teaching philosophy Goodman said “I just love the kids. That’s what gets me up every morning.”

Recipients of the Milken Educators Awards are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those deemed most exceptional are recommended for the award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation. Goodman is one of more than 60 educators to receive the award this year.

Watch video of the Milken award ceremony here: