Education Awards
100516_PuglieseTeacher Source/The Milken Family Foundation

Jayda Pugliese, a fifth grade teacher at Andrew Jackson Elementary School in South Philadelphia, receives $25,000 award from the Milken Family Foundation on Oct. 5, 2016.

October 06, 2016

WATCH: South Philly teacher receives prestigious $25,000 award

Milken Family Foundation surprises educator with national recognition

A South Philadelphia elementary school teacher got the surprise of a lifetime Thursday when she was presented with a $25,000 check from The Milken Foundation. The 30-year-old organization provides annual financial awards to educators who further excellence in classrooms around the country.

Jayda Pugliese, a fifth-grade science and math teacher at Andrew Jackson Elementary School, was chosen first in the nation for the prestigious award in recognition of her STEAM-focused classroom and improvement of math outcomes among 80 percent of her students.

With the help of the crowdfunding website DonorsChoose.org, a school supplies platform for corporate and individual contributors, Pugliese obtained a 3D printer, microscopes and "snap circuits" to aid in the study of electricity. Her fifth-grade students used the 3D printer to design products, write up business plans and present their "companies" to their peers.

Schoolwide, Pugliese is overseeing a "blended learning" initiative that will be comprised of both online and face-to-face teaching educational interaction. Through this program, she will train and monitor faculty at Andrew Jackson to utilize both sets of tools in tandem.

Outside the classroom, Pugliese is the chair for her grade band and launched the Healthy Youth Physical Education (HYPE) after-school program, named the best of its kind in the School District of Philadelphia.

"The Milken Educator Award represents the gold standard for teacher excellence, and I am proud to have Jayda serving as a model for that excellence right here in our District," said SDP Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite. "The hard work, innovation and dedication she displays in the classroom every day are deserving of this recognition. Andrew Jackson students have such a fantastic teacher in Jayda and her efforts are making such a positive difference in their lives."

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, also in attendance, praised Pugliese for her dedication to teachers and students.

"On behalf of our city, I congratulate her and thank her for her fine work," Kenney said.

Before joining Andrew Jackson, Pugliese served as a classroom teacher, technology director and coordinator of the K-12 ESL and special education programs at ASPIRA Bilingual Charter School. She also taught seventh and eight-grade students for three years at Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School.

"Jayda Pugliese is a tenacious and innovative leader who gives students tangible opportunities to explore and excel in both the arts and sciences. Her blended learning expertise and skill in cutting-edge technology are exemplary," said Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken. "We are proud to recognize Jayda with this Award and are confident that she will continue to prepare talented young minds for a globally competitive society."

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been set aside for Milken's Awards program. Pugliese and her fellow award recipients will receive professional development training and opportunities throughout the rest of the careers.