BGSU alumna recognized among the top 1% of teachers nationwide with prestigious Milken Educator Award

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – A Bowling Green State University alumna was recently honored with one of the nation’s most prestigious teaching awards for her creative and engaging approach to math education.

Marissa McCarthy ‘08, an eighth-grade math teacher at Shanahan Middle School in the Olentangy Local School District near Columbus, Ohio, received the Milken Educator Award, often hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” at a surprise assembly in November.

McCarthy was one of two teachers in Ohio to receive the award among 75 nationwide.

“I was very shocked and overwhelmed,” McCarthy said of hearing her name announced at an all-school assembly that included representatives from the Milken Educator Awards and Ohio Department of Education and Workforce. “I’m flattered and humbled. I love what I do, I work hard at it, and I love my students. Receiving this recognition is a full-circle moment.”

The Milken Educator Awards honor K-12 educators who represent the top 1% of the teaching profession for the quality of their teaching, professional leadership, engagement with families and the community and their potential for even greater contributions to the healthy development of children. Winners receive an unrestricted $25,000 prize.

"Marissa McCarthy is dedicated to creating learning opportunities that prepare students for success. She pinpoints real-world learning connections, challenges students to advance their knowledge and engages them through relevant and fun project-based learning," Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce Jessica Voltolini said in a Milken Educator Awards news release.

McCarthy, who is in her 16th year of teaching, said her experience at BGSU thoroughly prepared her to be a thoughtful and impactful educator.

“I had a phenomenal experience in the BGSU College of Education and Human Development,” McCarthy said. “When I chose to enroll at BGSU, I knew about its strong reputation with an outstanding ‘ahead of its time’ middle childhood education program. The University more than lived up to its reputation. My professors were great and really encouraging. They had high expectations of us and were passionate about preparing us to become teachers."

BGSU has long been regarded for the caliber of its education program and is one of Ohio’s largest producers of teacher education graduates.

In addition to using project-based learning, McCarthy recently adopted a new strategy in her classroom based on the book, “Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics.” The premise is to strengthen collaboration and perseverance among students, she said.

McCarthy said students work together in randomized groups of three to review existing content and discover new content with little direct instruction.

“You see those ‘ah-ha’ moments when they start explaining things to each other that you haven’t explicitly taught them yet. It's all about getting them to think,” McCarthy said. “Math is not a spectator sport. The only way you learn math is by doing math.

“In my 16 years of teaching, this has been the best way to ensure they’re doing math, not just mimicking me and memorizing. They’re developing a deep understanding of the material.”

Updated: 01/17/2024 10:29AM