Clayton teacher wins prestigious Milken Award. Congrats to Shekema Silveri.

Milken Award winner Shekema Silveri (Clayton schools)

Milken Award winner Shekema Silveri (Clayton schools)

Called the Oscar of teaching, a Milken award went this morning to stunned Mount Zion High School teacher Shekema Silveri. Silveri teaches English/Language arts. She is the only Georgia teacher this year to win the prestigious teaching award and its $25,000 prize.

(If I can get video of the surprise announcement at the high school this morning, I will post.)

Here is her bio information from the Milken Family Foundation:

Shekema Silveri is a natural leader at Mt. Zion High School in Jonesboro.. Bringing to the table an extensive community service background and first-rate academic credentials, Silveri employs multi-layered instruction and well-defined practices, all in a school with a large at-risk student population.

In the classroom, Silveri requires students to produce evidence of learning, justify their perspectives, evaluate their reasoning and set their future goals.

As part of her well-rounded approach to instruction, Silveri integrates multimedia into her lessons, using websites and blogs as well as shooting and editing video. Through these methods, Silveri’s students not only learn the information but also understand the pedagogy behind it. Silveri’s pupils posted a 100 percent passing rate on the American literature exit exam.

Her three AP classes are filled to capacity and include students who are not normally on an honors or AP track. One of her students even gained acceptance into the Governor’s Honors Program for communicative arts. Silveri takes her leadership skills outside of the classroom. She mentors colleagues, led implementation of a remediation program for seniors, and served on the ELA Textbook Adoption Team and curriculum redesign team. Silveri is also a member of 10 professional associations and is a frequent presenter at development conferences.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

43 comments Add your comment


October 21st, 2011
10:33 am

I wonder why The Georgia Council of Teachers of English didn’t discover this shining star and give her an award like Jordan received?

Maureen Downey

October 21st, 2011
10:39 am

@Slob, Not sure of the intent of your comment, but the awards are for different accomplishments and from very different organizations with different purposes. Jordan Kohanim’s award was for her courage to speak out and Shekema Silveri won an award based on her classroom teaching.
The Milken Award is a big deal. A very big deal. Clayton should be proud to count this teacher among its staff.

Write Your Board Members

October 21st, 2011
10:42 am

Bravo! She sounds like a fabulous teacher.


October 21st, 2011
10:48 am

Congratulations to Ms. Silveri! Here’s hoping that Georgia finds a way to disseminate her methods throughout the system.

HS Public Teacher

October 21st, 2011
11:22 am

Major congrats!!

Maureen – Do you have a link to this award to explain it? This may help….

Maureen Downey

October 21st, 2011
11:34 am

@HS, The link is embedded in the first line where Milken is mentioned.


October 21st, 2011
11:37 am


I think everyone should be proud of Shekema Silveri. I am! A real teacher making a difference where so many on this blog claim they cannot do what she does with “A LARGE” population of at risk students. We don’t see Shekema Silveri posting on here complaining about class size, lack of parental involvment or lost funding. Would you like to know why? Because she is busy teaching, not pawing her I-Phone every minute of the day like so many so called educators who find time during the school day to constantly complain about everything under the sun except the source of public educations failure. Themselves. Things that make you go HHHMMMM?

As to my intent, it is clear. Jordans first article you refered to I already commented on and stand by every word. Her second article you refered to about merit pay and her argument against it is fairly transparent. She teaches at a high performing school along with her co-author. Free and reduced price lunches are under 30% of student population at their school. They would never benefit from such a program. Jordan teachers Honors English along with a 10th grade class. I fail to see any advocacy except to champion teachers. The Georgia Council of Teachers is made up of,,,, wait for it,,,,, Teachers. Many of their officers also list not only their phone number but their work and fax number as well. I was under the impression that their work place was for just that. WORK. Not some Ra-Ra club they run and teach on the side. I haven’t read anything from Jordan that suggests any meaningful reform to public education. What I do read is very similar to the constant teacher rhetoric on here and that is why she is encouraged to continue by a Local Teacher group. Nothing more. Heroic? Not in my book!

Dr. John Trotter

October 21st, 2011
11:42 am

Congratulations, Shekema! The entire Mt. Zion Bulldog Community is very proud of you! Go Dogs!

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 21st, 2011
11:49 am

Im available to assist in the spending of the $25K prize money.


October 21st, 2011
11:51 am

I have to wonder if all of Georgia’s public school teachers were considered…

The best teacher in Georgia is in Clayton County?
Isn’t this the same system that lost their accreditation a couple of years ago.
The system’s test score are near the bottom in Georgia.


October 21st, 2011
11:59 am

Sounds like Ms. Silveri teaches lots of go-getter kids (3 AP classes!) and inspires them to higher achievement!


October 21st, 2011
12:23 pm

I hope they keep her in the classroom and not send her to the cental office. Congratulations, Ms. Silveri, on a job well done. I appreciate all of your hard work and innovations in the classroom.

APS 4th grade teacher & a Proud Cheater!

October 21st, 2011
1:11 pm

Just….maybe,….one day I’ll be recognized for my non-conventional, risky efforts in helping underperforming students reach their potential through deep engagement in meaningful instruction.

True leaders/entrepreneurs are often described as bold, risk takers. Do we maintain a course of action that is not working for so many?

Until I am ceremoniously recognized, I’ll keep holding my breath.

Thank you very much,

Fighting in the Trenches

Maureen Downey

October 21st, 2011
1:13 pm

@APS, I think you’ll be recognized for your creative writing first. I think there is script writing and character development in your future.

To mourner from ATLNative

October 21st, 2011
1:22 pm

@James wouldn’t you want some of the brightest teachers in some of th worst school system? Also the accrediation lost was du to a dysfunctional school board not the instructor or the kids. Congratulations Ms. Silveri. And thanks Maureen for the last few inspirational stories on these teachers. I do believe the majority of them care and really try to give a quality eduation.


October 21st, 2011
1:25 pm

Way To GO Ms. Silveri!! – She was my daughter’s teacher and absolutely adored her committment to the children and education.

@James – Clayton didn’t lose their accreditation because of lack of education. There are plenty of GOOD teachers and EXCELLENT students in clayton county. However, they were overshadowed by all the chaos of the board.

Miss Priss!

October 21st, 2011
1:26 pm

Sure, Dr NO/Mr Sunshine! Spend away, fool! But then you’d find something to else to complain about. These bills have germs! Maybe this bill belonged to a stupid person! Why can’t I be happy!


October 21st, 2011
1:27 pm

I’ve worked with Mrs. Silveri, and she is everything they said about her and more. Congrats!!!!


October 21st, 2011
1:32 pm

@ Mary,

But if we don’t send teachers like Ms. Silveri to become principals, who are we left with? Don’t we need good principals who can truly be instructional leaders?

This is a huge dillemma, isn’t it?

Jana Rausch

October 21st, 2011
1:34 pm

Maureen, I just emailed you as well. Thank you for your post. Saw your comment about the video and we’ll have one uploaded shortly. When it is, I’ll email it to you to post. -Jana, Milken Family Foundation

Jana Rausch

October 21st, 2011
1:45 pm

Maureen, here’s the link to the video: Thank you!


October 21st, 2011
1:48 pm

Congratulations Shekema!!!

I hope you have an opportunity to spread your message and techniques to more teachers through this award!!!!

Steven R. Harbin

October 21st, 2011
1:49 pm

Congratulations to Ms. Shekema Silveri. As a fellow Clayton County educator I’m very proud of her. There are a lot of really good educators in the CCSS. Glad to see one of them getting some recognition.


October 21st, 2011
2:03 pm

@ mary and @ thomas

That’s how Beveryl Hall did it in New York. We do need great principals – and I’m not trying to discourage teachers for wanting to become a principal – but gosh – I would sure hate to loose her in the classroom.


October 21st, 2011
2:06 pm

@ Sloboffthestreet, 11:37 am: “We don’t see Shekema Silveri posting on here complaining about class size, lack of parental involvment or lost funding.”

How do you know that she doesn’t post under a pseudonym?? Many bloggers have commented on other threads that they’re teachers but afraid to post under their real names for fear of retaliation. Even the warrior Dr. John Trotter advised Jordan Kohanim—who does post under her real name– to be careful.

My very real congratulations to Ms. Silveri whether she blogs or not.

To Proud Teacher from Good Mother

October 21st, 2011
2:43 pm

Every time you blog, Maureen receives your IP address. Anyone can get Maureen’s files and know the exact IP address of your machine, which means, your “proud” cheating emails can be traced to your individual computer.

….so please keep bragging about you cheating because I am contacting the authorities and copying and pasting your blogs and emailing them to the authorites.

please keep bragging so I can rack up the evidence. I just love it when a lying theif brags about their crimes. It makes it so much easier when a crook is dumb.

Good Mother

October 21st, 2011
2:45 pm

I would love to hear from Ms. Silveri. I would enjoy her posting here about how she handles her classroom, specific details about her keys to success and would love to hear her thoughts on how we parents can best support and encourage efforts like hers in the classroom.


October 21st, 2011
2:56 pm

Congratulations Ms. Silveri. I know the teacher in DeKalb Kristen Drake who won this a number of years ago, and she is so amazing. You must be too. What an honor for you, for your school and for your school system.

Jennifer Falk

October 21st, 2011
3:23 pm

There is nothing as special or raised as high as a wonderful teacher. These are the folks that change student’s lives. Congratulations Ms. Silveri.

To Thomas from Good Mother

October 21st, 2011
3:23 pm

Regarding the need for good principals:

We need fewer principals than teachers so I wouldn’t worry about a promotion for this teacher. As long as we have good teachers we will have plenty to choose from to get a good principal. I think the most important trait a principal needs to have is honesty, you’d agree I’m sure.

Maureen Downey

October 21st, 2011
3:29 pm

@To Proud Cheater and Good Mother, IP addresses also show people who post under numerous aliases numerous times. By the way, I would never release anyone’s address so there is no chance that a system would track down a teacher.

But I wouldn’t be sure any poster is as “good” or “proud” as their posts suggest. And if there is any crime being committed in Proud’s postings, it’s probably overwrought fiction writing.


October 21st, 2011
4:48 pm

It’s gratifying to see that there are at least one or two good school teachers out there.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

October 21st, 2011
6:24 pm

reality 2

October 21st, 2011
7:40 pm

@ Good Mother,

It may be true that there are a fewer principals than teachers, but since the proportion of “good teachers” among teachers aren’t that high, the number of principals needed and the number of “good teachers” may not be that different…


October 21st, 2011
8:12 pm

She sounds amazing…. Congrats! We need more teachers like her. My only hesitation is that I do recall that Dr. Lewis was also the recipient of the Milikin award so that taints it a bit for me….

Barbara Donnelly Lane

October 21st, 2011
8:15 pm

Ms. Silveri was a doctoral student at Georgia State while I was getting my Masters. While I did not always agree with her political ideology (as expressed on a college campus where such discussions are appropriate amongst adults), it was clear to me from the start that she was a wonderful high school teacher. In fact, now that I am in my own classroom, I have often thought back to some of the things she did to engage her students. I think it’s marvelous she’s being recognized for all of her hard work, and I hope she has much success helping future kids unlock the door to learning. Teaching is an often unappreciated art, and–from what I could see in my brief interaction with her–Ms. Silveri was a real artist. I hope this award allows her to hone her tools more as she continues to help children learn what they need to know to charter their own life courses. Congratulations!


October 21st, 2011
9:08 pm

This is my teacher and everyday she shows that though my life at home is hard things will get better. No one understands what it is like to know that i have a teacher that is not only their to teach but she loves us, her students just as much. She deserves this award god bless you mrs silveri and i can’t wait to see you Monday.

Jordan Kohanim

October 21st, 2011
9:39 pm

What an inspiration and what beautiful compliments from her peers and students. Congrats to her! It is well-deserved. :)

[...] Clayton teacher wins prestigious Milken Award. Congrats to Shekema Silveri [...]

Lisa B.

October 22nd, 2011
12:43 am

I am thrilled that Shekema Silveri has been recognized for her achievements. It’s great to hear a positive news story about a teacher. We’ve had so much negative press in Georgia we forget there are exceptional teachers out there. During the fifteen years of my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many excellent teachers, many very good teachers, and only a couple of teachers who were directed into other fields.


October 22nd, 2011
10:18 am

God bless Shekema Silveri. And thank you, her principal whoever you are, for not driving her away or making her life a toxic stew. And thank you, whoever hired her, for recognizing the glint of strength and love in her eyes. It’s so wonderful when the needs of our world are met head-on by a beautifully talented person. And wonderful whenever that is seen and recognized.

Archie@Arkham Asylum

October 22nd, 2011
4:39 pm

Mount Zion High School has not yet made Adequate Yearly Progress according to the dictates of No Child Left Behind but as the success of Ms. Silveri indicates, positive things are going on at MZHS and they are probably not limited to her classes. The AYP criteria is so arbitrary that even a school that is doing a lot of things right can be on the Needs Improvement list. With NCLB, it’s “all or nothing” and “near misses don’t count.” That said, to Ms. Silveri, congratulations! May you be the inspiration for MZHS to continue onward and upward!

To Maureen from Good Mother

October 24th, 2011
11:43 am

Ever hear of a subpoena? Would you be willing to go to jail to protect the proud cheating teacher?