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Jefferson County Milken Award winner says she belongs in schools

Jessica Goodman

Kentucky School Advocate
June 2022

When the pandemic paused in-person education, James E. Farmer Elementary STEM educator Jessica Goodman’s response was: challenge accepted. She adapted her instruction to keep students connected, incorporating STEM fundamentals with elements of literacy into a series of “Get Your Geek On” experiments her students could do at home to spark their imaginations.

Goodman’s fun, inventive instructional practices led to narrowing the achievement gap and landed her a national $25,000 Milken Educator Award.

In a surprise assembly at the Jefferson County school in April, Gov. Andy Beshear, Education Commissioner Jason Glass and Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop presented Goodman with the honor.

Because of the surprise nature of the award, the winners’ families usually cannot attend, but Goodman’s father, Louisville Courier Journal photographer Jeff Faughender, was at the assembly, after being told he was there to cover the school’s literacy efforts.

Goodman’s two children who are students at the school also watched alongside hundreds of their classmates.

“I am honored to congratulate Jessica on being named a Milken Educator,” Beshear said as he presented the award. “Teachers like Jessica have worked tirelessly to create new ways of learning for students. They are engaged and enjoy what Mrs. Goodman teaches because of the level of care and dedication she instills in each of her lessons. She works tirelessly to ensure every Farmer Elementary student achieves at a high level and is valued.”

Goodman, who became a teacher because of her love of school, said one of her goals is to “make school a place where kids want to go.”“Even when I was a kid, I never wanted to miss a day of school. I belong in schools,” she said. “I think schools are so important for not just content knowledge but developing skills as a person and developing skills to be successful.”

From left, Gov. Andy Beshear, Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop, Farmer Elementary School Principal Shannon Conlon, recipient Jessica Goodman, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio and  Commissioner of Education Jason Glass.Goodman began teaching at Farmer Elementary in 2013 as a special education resource teacher. She was drawn to elementary school children due to their willingness to learn and be awed.

Glass said Goodman 

 

engages her students through their interests with creative and innovative practices and promotes a culture of continuous improvement and resilience.

 “Above all, she leads her classroom with empathy, making sure each and every student feels worthy of her attention and time,” he said.

Goodman is among some 60 educators coast-to-coast who will receive the Award during the 2021-22 school year and the second recipient from Kentucky. Kevin Dailey, a history teacher at Ballyshannon Middle School in Boone County, earned the Award in February. Goodman is the first Jefferson County teacher to receive the award since 2014.

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award.

Top photo: STEM teacher Jessica Goodman was surprised at the April 22 assembly that she thought was about the school’s literacy efforts. Photos provided by the Milken Family Foundation

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