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An ‘Oscar’ for Teaching

Educator removes barriers to expand opportunity

12/17/2019, 4:40 p.m.
Nothing is more important to Julie Rowell than removing barriers and expanding opportunities for students
Gresham High School teacher Julie Rowell (left) reacts to hearing the news she won ‘the Oscars for teaching,’ a highly esteemed education award from the Milken Family Foundation. On Rowell’s right is Amari Thomas, the school’s attendance liaison. Photo courtesy of Milken Family Foundation

Nothing is more important to Julie Rowell than removing barriers and expanding opportunities for students in the Gresham-Barlow School District and specifically at Gresham High School. Rowell's English Language Learner classes engage students who typically have only two to three years of English, propelling them to achieve in the classroom and in life.

In celebration, Rowell has earned a prestigious award for teaching and an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize from the Milken Family Foundation, the organization’s only winner from Oregon this year and among just 40 teachers they recognized nationwide, receiving the honor last week in a surprise assembly at Gresham High School.

Rowell’s students regularly advance more than a year per grade. As a fluent Spanish speaker and dedicated bilingualist she goes the extra mile for struggling students, inspiring learners with her high expectations and aspirational messages of inclusiveness.

"A teacher like Julie Rowell knows how to really connect with students and make an extraordinary impact," said Greg Gallagher, senior program director for Milken. “Her dedication, commitment and creative approach exemplify the inspirational leadership we seek.”

Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill credits Rowell for being at the forefront of strengthening cultural diversity and language learning in Oregon. She shares videos of her teaching methods with interested colleagues and utilizes video collaboration and other tools to increase student engagement.

Gresham Superintendent Dr. A. Katrise Perera calls her a stand-out educator who uses highly engaging instructional strategies to ensure English Language Learners achieve at high levels.

“Her willingness to share her expertise with colleagues has had a dramatic impact on our students,” Perera said.

The Milken Educator Awards has been hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching” to promote research showing teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement.

The foundation 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,” believing that “The future belongs to the educated.”