180 Awards Recognize Six Educator Superstars for Commitment to Improving Student Outcomes

On National Teacher Appreciation Day, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt celebrates educators for helping students overcome personal and academic obstacles

BOSTON – Global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) today announced the six recipients of the 2018 180 Educator Awards. The awards, now in their 12th year, honor teachers who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fostering math and literacy growth in their students, resulting in notable personal and academic growth.

The six 180 Educator Award winners have inspired struggling students to make great strides in reading and math using READ 180, MATH 180 and System 44, intervention programs that use adaptive technology and teacher tools to personalize instructing and accelerate growth. Ranging in age, background and geographic location, each educator has made it their mission to ensure that all students, including those who have fallen behind due to social and academic obstacles, have the opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in life regardless of circumstance.

The 2018 180 Educator Award winners are:

Kellie Brown
Irving High School, Irving, Texas
In her first year of teaching READ 180, many of Ms. Brown’s students increased their reading levels by two grades. Now, with two years of experience with the program, she has helped new educators implement and teach the program, and peers from neighboring districts have visited her classroom to learn how to make READ 180 come to life in their own schools. According to one student, “Ms. Brown has helped me focus on literature, but also on other classroom texts. I learned new strategies and steps for understanding what I am reading.”

J Geurts
Floyd Light Middle School, Portland, Oregon
A leader in the David Douglas School District for students and teachers using MATH 180, Ms. Geurts helps the most challenged students grow to view themselves as “true mathematicians” with her preparation, dedication and compassion. Her ability to see and understand the needs of students with special learning challenges has contributed to impressive growth and achievement in her classroom. Additionally, Ms. Geurts serves as a mentor for MATH 180 peers across her district, helping to brainstorm classroom management strategies and foster new ideas for moving students forward. One student said, “I have had many great math teachers who have helped me, but none have given me the strength, encouragement and tools that Ms. Geurts has.”

Amy Gibbons
Ellis Elementary School, Arlington, Texas
Despite the many academic challenges faced by students at her school, Ms. Gibbons has demonstrated a tireless dedication to growing reading levels and building a growth mindset in every child she encounters with the support of READ 180. Ms. Gibbons has been a key factor in leading Ellis Elementary School to become one of the top-performing READ 180 schools in the Arlington School District. She credits this success to a common goal she shares with the team of educators in her district, school and READ 180 community – to improve academic achievement and build social and emotional skills among students.

Denise Giddens
Franklin Forest Elementary, LaGrange, Georgia
Ms. Giddens has made a career out of doing whatever it takes to help struggling readers overcome personal and academic obstacles. She has embraced System 44 and her classroom instructional practices are used to familiarize and train other teachers on the program’s implementation. Ms. Giddens keeps a close eye on her student’s reading data and holds them accountable for their own learning, so they take ownership to successfully achieve reading goals. A fourth grade student in her class stated, “The computer [program] thought I would make it to a reading level 300 but I passed that goal, and now my goal this year is 400. I’m going to try to make it to 500.”

Marion Sankey
Callaway Elementary School, LaGrange, Georgia
Ms. Sankey goes above and beyond to ensure her students are confident, engaged and in control of their own learning. Through READ 180, she has created an innovative and collaborative learning environment where students are comfortable sharing ideas and learning from each other. At mid-year, 20 percent of Ms. Sankey’s students doubled or quadrupled their expected literacy growth, and another 39 percent of the students met or exceeded their half-year goals. Many are on a trajectory to exceed their year-end goals. One of her students, an aspiring doctor, shared, “I’m thankful that Ms. Sankey is helping me grow my Lexile® [reading] level so I can be what I want to be when I grow up.”

Ruth Willis
Altavista Combined School, Altavista, Virginia
Students in Ms. Willis’s READ 180 class know that she sets high expectations for growth in reading, and they work hard along with her to reach those expectations – and on many occasions, surpass them. Her caring spirit helps nurture struggling readers, and her belief in them helps build their confidence in their abilities. In the first year of READ 180 implementation, 91 percent of Ms. Willis’s students showed gains greater than 100 points in their Lexile® reading levels, and that growth continues each year. After spending two years in her READ 180 program, many students have gone on to pass statewide assessments and become confident, fluent readers.

“We salute teachers as the heroes of the classroom and the facilitators of student success,” said Rose Else-Mitchell, HMH’s Chief Learning Officer. “We’re honored to recognize these six inspiring educators for their commitment to helping students break through barriers, changing their lives at school and beyond. Using innovative, blended teaching and learning approaches, these educators have made a profound difference in the academic lives of their students, supporting ‘a 180’ for so many.”

The 180 Educator Award winners are selected by an HMH committee that reviews demonstrated improvement in reading and math based on average Lexile® or Quantile® gains in each educator’s classroom. Nomination forms include video submissions, personal statements from the educators and students who have been impacted firsthand, and references from colleagues in the nominated educator’s community. Winners receive a classroom library of HMH titles, as well as an invitation to attend the 2018 Model Schools Conference in Orlando, Fla., where they will honored in an 180 Awards ceremony.

To learn more about the six 2018 180 Educator Award winners, please visit the READ 180 Community page.

About Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (NASDAQ:HMHC) is a global learning company committed to delivering integrated solutions that engage learners, empower educators and improve student outcomes. As a leading provider of K–12 core curriculum, supplemental solutions and professional learning services, HMH partners with educators and school districts to uncover solutions that unlock students’ potential and extend teachers’ capabilities. HMH serves more than 50 million students and 3 million educators in 150 countries, while its award-winning children's books, novels, non-fiction, and reference titles are enjoyed by readers throughout the world. For more information, visit www.hmhco.com.

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Media Contact
Meghan Daly
Manager, Corporate Communications, HMH