What does it take to be one of the best teachers in the country? One wanting to know the answer to such a question need not travel outside of Murfreesboro.
The Murfreesboro City School system was recently blessed to see a member of its ranks nationally recognized for tremendous work in the classroom. On Thursday, April 7, Black Fox Elementary School teacher Raeven Brooks was presented with a Milken Educator Award. This award is considered “the Oscars of teaching,” and has so far been given to fewer than 3,000 teachers.
The Murfreesboro Voice recently caught up with Raeven Brooks to discuss life after winning her award. Our interview is below.
How would you describe your reaction to winning a Milken Educator Award?
First, I was just so surprised in general. I looked over and saw my administrators. They were so proud, and they were so happy. Looking over at the gym and just seeing everybody celebrating me in that moment, I was overwhelmed with happiness. I just felt so completely honored to get to be a part of that moment.
It just meant so much to me to get to represent my district in such an amazing way. So, it's a moment that I will never forget.
You received a Milken Educator Award for your use of data to impact classroom outcomes? Let’s discuss.
I really do love data. I think I love knowing where we're starting from… I like being very transparent with my students. As we learn throughout the year, celebrating all of those victories in the classroom—no matter how big or how small—we're celebrating success as it happens. And I think sometimes you don't quite achieve your goal, and that's OK. We reflect on where we may have not exactly made our goal this time, and then we try again for the next time.
I try to remember that they’re children and not robots. We should set challenges for them and let them set challenges for themselves. We should make a goal of how we can achieve those challenges. But also, we want them to know that their data does not define them.
How was this new approach to using analytics in the classroom received?
In Murfreesboro City Schools, the overarching idea is to make sure that we are tending to the whole child. A piece of that is data.
The challenge was figuring out how to make it obtainable, and how to get a second grader to understand why this is important. The way to do that is by taking the fear out of things like tests and quizzes. I let my students know, “Hey, This is just something that is part of our learning! We’re going to do our best. Let’s just show what we know.” I think that taking that pressure off really allows second graders to shine so they’re not so worried.
On top of the honor and recognition of receiving a Milken Educator Award, you also received a check for $25,000. What are your plans with the money you’ve received?
I don’t have a definitive answer yet. I know it’s going to be something that is going to help me and my family. I have a 10-month-old, and she’s amazing! Whatever I do with it, it will be something that we all can enjoy together!
You’re actually a second-generation teacher for Murfreesboro City Schools?
My mom is a school counselor in the district as well. I've been in her classes before when I was really little. It’s been quite an honor to watch my mom. We don’t get to work too closely now, with us being at different schools. But she’s worked for Murfreesboro City Schools for almost 30 years now. I’m just in awe of her as a person! She’s so inspiring, both in and out of the classroom.
Now that you’ve been honored with a Milken Educator Award, what are your plans for the future? What does Fall 2022 look like for you?
I think the fall is going to be a lot of continued learning for me. Winning this award has been a good way to open up new doors and communications with new people.
I will graduate this May with my Master's Degree in Education Administration and Supervision from MTSU. Over the next couple of years, I would like to move into an administration role. I’m going into the fall with an open mind, ready to be with my new students, and ready to learn new things and take on new opportunities.
For further information about Black Fox Elementary School, be sure to visit its website.