Milken Award-winning teacher changes lives despite lack of resources

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by Tamara Wilson, CNN

(CNN) At a time when many talk about what’s “wrong” with education, there are many talented teachers making a positive impact in our schools.
A great example of an educator who’s making such an impact is Shekema Silveri. She is an Advanced Placement (AP) English teacher in room 110 at Mount Zion High School in Jonesboro, Georgia. Silveri says she loves her students and gives them her best every day. Her students feel the same way about her – some even call her Momma.
Silveri allows ANY student to sign up for her class. There are no requirements, but she says students have to be up for the challenge. She builds confidence in her kids by having them justify their perspectives and evaluate their reasoning, while at the same time teaching them the importance of getting an education.
    Mount Zion Senior Jeffrey Wallace had this to say, “We take a look at every aspect of how many great contributions we've made to America and the world as a whole, as opposed to being inside an AP U. S. history class where we predominantly talk about European history, I think it's awesome that I come inside an AP literature class and get the whole lesson that includes African American history. I believe this is great for my self confidence.”
    Mount Zion is a Title I high school where you won’t find the latest technology. This forced Silveri to find creative ways to keep her students engaged. While some classrooms don’t allow cell phones, Silveri encourages her students to use them. The students look up definitions for the word of day with apps like dictionary.com and conduct research for assignments on their phones. She also believes they write more when communicating via blog and Twitter. The high school teacher integrates other multimedia into her lessons by having her students give PowerPoint presentations along with shooting and editing video.
    This is what Junior Allyissa Young said after giving her first PowerPoint presentation in front of the class, “I was really not a talker, but presenting my project in front of the classroom helped me to open up. I know being able to express myself to others will give me a lot more opportunities.”
      In 2011, Silveri was one of 11 teachers in the state who had a 100% student passing rate on all of her standardized tests. Her innovative teaching style also earned her a Milken Educator Award that same year.
      Each year the Milken Family Foundation  recognizes 40 outstanding K-12 educators nationwide with the Milken award, which is called “The Oscar of Teaching” and a cash prize.