aMAzing Educators

Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards

Goals of the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards program include honoring and rewarding outstanding K-12 educators for the quality of their teaching, their professional leadership, their engagement with families and the community, and their potential for even greater contributions to the healthy development of children. Goals also include focusing public attention on the importance of excellent educators and encouraging able, caring and creative people to choose the challenge, service and adventure of teaching as a career.

Based on guidelines established by the Foundation, participating states' departments of education appoint blue-ribbon committees that recommend candidates for selection. Identification and selection procedures are confidential, and the program does not include a formal nomination or application procedure.

2017 Massachusetts Milken Educator

Dan Adler, who teaches sixth-grade science at UP Academy Leonard (UAL) in Lawrence, wants to be the next Bill Nye, a pop culture icon with a mission to inspire kids to love science. It's not uncommon for Adler to channel his inner rock star in class, belting out contemporary melodies with his own original, science-themed lyrics. An advocate for science whose joy and intensity are infectious, Adler uses games like charades and Simon Says to keep students engaged. He is known for reaching out to UAL's most at-risk scholars to move them forward. UAL is a high-poverty turnaround school. Ninety-six percent of the students are Hispanic, 82 percent do not have English as their first language and 35 percent are English language learners. Adler's students are achieving a mastery average above 80 percent on rigorous summative assessments in science, which are linked to Massachusetts state standards.

Specifically, Adler incorporates Kagan Cooperative Learning structures and works on reading comprehension using articles about science. For his annual school wide Service Fair, students research a problem in their community and deliver a presentation to fellow students, teachers and prominent guests. Committed to helping all students learn, Adler sets class wide mastery targets; students who fall short on weekly quizzes aligned with end-unit exams work with him or student tutors until everyone meets the goal. After school, he can be found attending sporting events, cheering on scholar athletes, visiting with families, and helping students in the stands with homework as they wait for siblings or their turn to compete. Adler mentors all his former scholars, many of whom come back to meet with him after they move on to high school and beyond.

A sixth-grade cohort leader, Adler has had a powerful influence on UAL's science curriculum, pushing the entire science department to adopt "argumentation" as a focus in writing and regularly collaborating with seventh- and eighth-grade science teachers. He was instrumental in helping UAL win a national grant to update its science lab facilities. Adler has served on the school's teacher leadership team, presented at the UP Education Summit, mentored new teachers, led school wide professional development, and developed curriculum that is being used by most of the sixth-grade science teachers in the UP Education Network. He earned a Teach Plus Policy Fellowship and leads content learning teams for members of Teach for America, of which he is an alumnus. Adler was a key author of a policy paper that inspired Massachusetts State Representative Alice Peisch, chair of the Committee on Education, to file legislation supporting teacher preparation.

Adler earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale in 2007. After working in the nonprofit and private sectors, he chose to enter teaching full-time to maximize his impact on bettering the lives of others. Adler received a Master of Education in curriculum and teaching from Boston University in 2014. He lives in Cambridge.

Dan Adler
6th Grade Science Teacher
UP Academy Leonard, Lawrence Public Schools

2017 Massachusetts Milken Educator, Dan Adler
2017 Massachusetts Milken Educator, Dan Adler (group photo)

Massachusetts Milken Educators


  • Michelle Ryan, History Teacher
    Randolph High School, Randolph


  • Anthony Petrelis, Teacher
    McGlynn Elementary School, Medford

  • 2013

  • James Moonan, Teacher
    Pierce Middle School, Milton

  • 2012

  • Allan Cameron, Principal
    Deerfield Elementary School, Westwood

  • 2011

  • Derek Vandegrift, History Teacher
    Waltham High School, Waltham

  • 2010

  • Roni Gold, Teacher
    Rebecca Johnson School, Springfield

  • 2009

  • Rebecca Duda, Teacher
    Lakeview Junior High School, Dracut

  • 2008

  • Chris Louis Sardella, Teacher
    Marion E. Zeh Elementary School, Northborough

  • 2007

  • Anne Clark, Curriculum and Special
    Education Coordinator; ELA Teacher,
    Boston Arts Academy, Boston

  • Matthew Dugan, Teacher
    Madison Park Technical Vocational High, Boston

  • 2006

  • Nicholas Leonardos, Principal
    South Elementary School, Stoneham

  • Amanda Sequin, Teacher
    Curtis Guild Elementary, East Boston

  • 2005

  • Thabiti Akil Brown, Academic Dean
    Codman Academy Charter, Boston

  • Jasmine Lellock, Teacher
    Randolph High, Randolph

  • 2004

  • Michael Aw, Teacher
    Memorial Elementary, Hopedale

  • Holly Concannon, Teacher
    RJ Murphy, Boston

  • 2003

  • Michael Barton, Teacher
    Greater Lowell Voc. Tech. School,

  • Timothy Farmer, Principal
    Remington Middle School, Franklin

  • 2002

  • Mary Cowhey, Teacher
    Jackson Street School, Northampton

  • Michael Stanton, Teacher
    Ralph Talbot Primary, Weymouth

  • 2001

  • June Eressy, Teacher
    University Park Campus, Worcester

  • Catherine Latham, Teacher
    Lynn English High

  • Edward Noonan, Teacher
    Dorchester High, Boston

  • 2000

  • Holli Armstrong, Teacher
    Old Post Road Elementary, Walpole

  • Lucille Ferragamo, Teacher
    Whelan Elementary, Revere

  • Mary Meade-Montaque, Principal
    Roosevelt Elementary, Worcester

  • Elaine Swain, Teacher
    R. J. Murphy Elementary, Boston

  • 1999

  • Jim DeProfio, Teacher
    Lowell High School

  • Chuck McAfee, Principal
    Clarence Edwards Middle, Boston

  • Karin Orbon, Teacher
    North Brookfield High

  • Janice Smith, Teacher
    Weymouth Junior High

  • 1998

  • Wayne Boisselle, Teacher
    Dawson Elementary, Holden

  • William Henderson, Principal
    Patrick O'Hearn, Boston

  • Sue Pandiani, Teacher
    Ella F. Hoxie, Bourne

  • Sheila Smith-McAdams, Teacher
    Winthrop Elementary, Ipswich

  • 1997

  • Patricia Clem, Principal
    Powder Mill Middle, Southwick

  • Michael Contompasis, Headmaster
    Boston Latin, Boston

  • Maria Ferrandini, Teacher
    Charles C. Cashman Elementary, Amesbury

  • Alice Garcia, Teacher
    City View Elementary, Worcester

  • Kevin McArdle, Principal
    Heath Brook School, Tewksbury

  • David Vito, Teacher
    North Attleborough High

  • Joan Vohl Hamilton, Teacher
    Fairview Veterans Memorial Middle, Chicopee

  • Alma Wright, Teacher
    William Monroe Trotter Elementary, Boston

    Contact Us

    Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
    75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

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