Helping 4th-graders conquer math earns Brian Quinn a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

November 2, 2018


Maryland teacher motivates students make their own rules—and their own success—at East Silver Springs Elementary

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Students in Brian Quinn's fourth-grade class aren't just playing math games, they're writing their own and making their own rules. It's part of a winning strategy that has 70% of Quinn's students at East Silver Spring Elementary meeting grade level proficiency. Employing a data-driven, team-centric strategy that favors small-group cooperative learning and individualized instruction, Quinn pumps up student confidence, engagement and performance with creative teaching strategies that include personal math interventions when students need a boost or a little extra help.

Yet it was Quinn who got a welcome lift at a surprise school assembly this morning where he was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Family Foundation Senior Vice President Jane Foley and Maryland Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon. A fired-up Quinn was named a 2018-19 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. He is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Maryland this year, and is among the up to 40 honorees for 2018-19.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching," has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

An analytical yet caring educator who demands success from every student, Quinn is a leader in the East Silver Spring community in the classroom and beyond. Students work collaboratively in small groups and feel confident taking risks in his class, which creates space for leaps of insight and academic growth. In addition, Quinn chairs the Math Committee, collaborates with colleagues to develop teaching strategies, mentors student teachers and interns, builds school relationships with local businesses and coaches several sports teams.

"If mathematics is the music of reason, Brian Quinn is a gifted conductor bringing the best out of his fourth-grade ensemble," said Foley. "As a strong proponent of project-based learning, technology integration and smart data, he brings math to all of his learners so they can maximize their potential. We commend Quinn's creativity, drive and dedication, qualities we value deeply in Milken Educators."

"Brian Quinn combines his love of mathematics with his desire to help each child succeed, and the results are remarkable," said Salmon. "His students are inspired by his creativity, and his positive outlook and willingness to help lifts the entire school community."

"Being given a Milken Educator Award is a tremendous honor," stated Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jack R. Smith. "Brian Quinn is recognized by his students and colleagues as an outstanding educator who is committed to ensuring all students are learning. We congratulate him on receiving this prestigious and well deserved award and commend Mr. Quinn for his focus on student well-being and learning."

About Milken Educator Brian Quinn
Math teacher Brian Quinn insists on success from all his fourth-grade students at East Silver Spring (ESS) Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland. Responsible for math instruction and growth for the entire grade, Quinn uses school-wide and district-wide data to identify students' gaps and adapt his instruction to make sure holes are plugged. Students play board and computer games, work together in small groups using cooperative learning strategies and even create their own math games, designing the rules and writing instructions for classmates to follow. Quinn constantly looks for ways to innovate and engage all students, including those with special needs who are fully integrated into his classroom. He leads weekly math intervention groups and creates a vibrant, stimulating learning environment in which students are willing to take risks. Seventy percent of his students reached proficiency on math assessment tests; the district has used Quinn's small-group strategies as an example for its other elementary educators.

Quinn is a master relationship-builder who works effectively with everyone, including students, staff and parents. Children who appear to lack confidence and enthusiasm come to life in his classroom. Quinn connects with students through sports and other extracurricular interests. When students make poor choices, he talks them through the problem and provides a safe place for them to reflect. As a member of the ESS Staff Equity Team, Quinn attended training on equitable classroom strategies to enable greater student achievement and shared it with his colleagues. Educators from the building and district often observe in his classroom; Quinn mentors interns from nearby universities and facilitates vertical grade-level planning meetings to support math teachers at ESS in third, fourth and fifth grade.

A leader in the ESS community, Quinn chairs the Math Committee and is involved in the school's STEM night, reading night and talent showcase. He solicits donations for the school carnival’s annual silent auction, building long-term relationship with local business owners and circling back with them to share the ways their donations have benefited the school and its students. A strong believer in the connection between physical health and student success, Quinn has coached Girls on the Run, captains the ESS staff softball and kickball teams, coaches a girls' softball team and participates in both staff-parent and student-staff basketball games. He is an ardent football fan, playing in an adult league and engaging students in pickup football games at every opportunity.

Quinn earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Salisbury University in 2006 and a master's in curriculum and instruction for middle school mathematics from the University of Maryland in 2013.

More information about Quinn, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, the honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2018-19 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in New Orleans from March 21-24, 2019. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children's education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at, and

For more information, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 31 years ago in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

Lynne Russo 
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