Morristown, N.J. (November 9, 2015) – Imagine walking into a gymnasium where the entire school of 2700 students has gathered for an award ceremony. The students, faculty and staff are prepared to hear about an award that has been won by the school. Then imagine that your name is called and you are told that you have just been named a Milken Foundation Scholar and the head of the foundation hands you a check for $25,000 as well as a certificate naming you as one of the 40 best science teachers in the nation.
"I was in total shock," says Kim Moreno, science teacher at Union City High School and an Ed.D. student at CSE. "I had no idea this was coming!" Kim plans to use a portion of the award to pay for her doctorate.
Kim clearly loves her job and the subjects she teaches. After studying biology through the health careers program at Montclair State University, Kim went into laboratory work. She moved into substitute teaching, then worked as a paraprofessional for a special needs class. It was in these experiences that she realized that teaching was her life's work and she used New Jersey's alternate route to teaching program through Seton Hall University to get her teaching certificate.
"I had an 'aha' moment while working with the special needs students," she explains. "Teachers play a significant role in students' lives and I knew I could not only be a teacher, but I could be very successful at it!"
Lifelong learning is a passion for Kim and soon she was enrolled in an online master's in education program at Grand Canyon University at Phoenix. She also has an ESL (English as a Second Language) certification through the PATSEL Program, which is a grant that prepares teachers of STEM subjects to better serve English language learners, and a supervisory endorsement from William Paterson University. Kim sought the supervisory endorsement with an eye toward advancement. "I realized that I can do more for the students in an administrative capacity by supporting teachers," she explains.
Which leads her to the doctoral program in Education Leadership. "A good friend of mine found the CSE program," she explains. "Everything fell into place; the location, my time, and the program – I like that the clinical and content aspects happen at the same time."
She also wants to get her principal's certificate. "Dr. Ciccone has been counseling me towards my goals and is helping me towards the certificate." Kim is in the Paterson, N.J., cohort.
Her teaching position started with her teaching biology in Union City High School. She was asked to teach both honors and regular anatomy and physiology. She was then asked to take on the Rutgers University School of Health Related Professions program in which high school students can earn college credits for the health related professions. She developed the program with Rutgers University, set up an advisory committee, found mentors and secured funding – all before she opened the classroom to students. She also took over the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and grew the program substantially. The HOSA members can earn scholarships through service and has been named an outstanding HOSA organization for the last two years.
In her spare time, Kim rides as an EMT on the Totowa Borough First Aid Squad, where she serves as crew chief and vice president. She now has some of her students riding with her, learning the ropes. She is also working on her EMT instructor certification and is an instructor aide at the Jersey City Medical Center.
How does she do it all? In addition to boundless energy and a very positive attitude, Kim says this of her activities, "I have learned impeccable time management which is the key to keeping my life in balance."
About the Milken Educator Award
Established in 1987 as an initiative of the Milken Family Foundation, the Milken Educator Awards program rewards and inspires excellence in the world of education by honoring top educators around the country with $25,000 unrestricted awards. Not an accolade for "lifetime achievement", the Milken Educator Awards targets early-to-mid career education professionals for their already impressive achievements and, more significantly, for the promise of what they will accomplish in the future. The nominations for the award are submitted by the teachers' supervisors and administrators.