Battle Academy teacher surprised with $25,000 national award

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 3/7/17. Battle Academy third grade teacher Katelyn Baker reacts as she is announced as the recipient of an unrestricted $25,000 Milken Educator Award during an all-school assembly on March 7, 2017.

Scientists receive Nobel Prizes. Actresses win Oscars. Championship athletes receive large signing bonuses.

But excellent teachers rarely get praised, Jane Foley told Battle Academy's students Tuesday.

Foley, vice president for the Milken Educator Awards, came to Battle to change that and surprise Katelyn Baker, a third-grade teacher, with the prestigious award and a $25,000 check.

"The Milken [Educator] Award, in a very public way, says that greatness in education should be recognized, too," Foley said.

Baker is one of about 35 educators nationwide selected this year to receive the award from the Milken Family Foundation, and she is the only recipient in Tennessee.

"One of the best teachers in the entire country is here in your school," Foley told the students and teachers at Battle, who had gathered in the school's auditorium.

Foley praised Baker's accomplishments in the classroom, talking about how she tailors instruction to meet her students' needs and helps them work collaboratively in the classroom.

Baker expressed shock when her name was called a recipient, and said she's honored to be a part of Battle and its holistic approach to educating children.

"We work very hard and I really appreciate you taking the time to notice that and appreciate us," Baker said.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen attended the presentation and said Baker sets high expectations for students and ensures they know that what they're learning is meaningful by connecting it to the real world.

"You bring joy to the work you do with students," McQueen said. "... And at the end of the day, they love you and know you love them."

Battle Academy Principal Saunya Goss said she is proud of Baker's accomplishments and thankful that Milken chose to acknowledge them.

"[Baker] is a shining example of the environment that we have created here at Battle Academy that produces great teachers and great leaders," Goss said in a statement.

The Milken Family Foundation has been giving this award for 30 years, and along with the unrestricted $25,000, recipients also receive professional development opportunities throughout the remainder of their careers.

Contact Kendi A. Rainwater at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @kendi_and.