TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - For high school science teacher Jonathan Cadena, it's all about getting a reaction, a chemical reaction, from his students. A teacher at Tucson's Desert View High School, Cadena's classes are experimental in every sense of the word. Not only are students doing chemical experiments in class, but he's constantly engaging them in the larger experiment that is life itself.
Yet it was Cadena who was a component in an exciting mixture this morning at a surprise school assembly where he was presented with a prestigious Milken Educator Award by Superintendent of the Sunnyside Unified School District Steven Holmes and Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken. Cadena was named a 2017-18 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. He is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Arizona this year, and is among the 44 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."
Critical thinking and hands-on experience are keys to Cadena's classroom success with his highly engaged learners. Teaching science with a dramatic flair as well as a down-to-earth pragmatism, Cadena is compounding student achievement with more than 95 percent of his students passing chemistry and many moving on to careers in chemical engineering, education or the cosmetics industry. Bilingual in English and Spanish, Cadena is clearly a role model for students in this predominantly Latino school while teaching the universal language of science.
"Jonathan Cadena prepares students to pursue 21st century opportunities by making the complexities of science intriguing and attainable," said Lowell Milken. "By advancing STEM education through experience and engagement, Jonathan's formula for success epitomizes the kind of spirit, drive and inclusiveness that characterize Milken Educators."
"We are proud that the Milken Foundation has chosen to honor Jonathan Cadena," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. "As a chemistry teacher he helps his students quantify and measure chemical processes. What can't be quantified is the bond between teacher and students; which serves as a catalyst for learning. My congratulations to Jonathan for this well-deserved honor."
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.
For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.