Whittier teacher surprised with national educator award

PHOTO: Whittier Middle School Principal Shawn Vincent congratulates eighth-grade social studies teacher after she was surprised with the Milken Educator Award at an assembly April 12. (Milken Family Foundation photo)

POLAND — Jamie Karaffa, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, is one of two Maine winners of the $25,000 Milken Educator Award.
Karaffa was presented the award at an assembly April 12. The award, hailed as the “Oscar of Teaching,” aims to elevate the teaching profession and inspire young, capable people to become teachers.
Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop and Maine Deputy Commissioner of Education Dan Chuhta surprised Karaffa with the award at the assembly. She is the first recipient awarded in Regional School Unit 16. Maine’s other winner is third-grade teacher Hillary Hoyt, of Leroy H. Smith School in Winterport.
“Jamie makes ancient history feel just as relevant to her students as today’s current affairs, and both come alive in her classroom,” Bishop said. “She challenges her students to think critically and become engaged citizens of their community – and that is a learning outcome that can truly last a lifetime. For her excellent work in and out of the classroom, we are thrilled to present her with this award today.”
Milken Educator Award recipients are heralded while in early to mid-career for what they have achieved as well as the promise of what they will accomplish, given resources and opportunities the award provides.
Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin said that Karaffa’s “passion, creativity, and leadership” include her role as soccer coach, district curriculum leader, and beyond.
Karaffa earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania, in 2005 and a master’s in American history and government from Ashland University, in Ohio, in 2021.
Honorees in June will attend the Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles, where they will network with colleagues about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. More than $140 million in funding, including $70 million for the individual cash awards, has been devoted to the Milken Awards initiative, which includes professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.
Milken Educators frequently go on to serve in leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and reviewed by panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.
The $25,000 cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money for things like their children’s or their own continuing education, dream field trips, scholarships, and even adopting children.
For more information about the award, and Karaffa’s teaching, visit www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/jamie-karaffa.

Students and Maine Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta reveal how much the Milken Educator Award presented to Jaimie Karaffa April 12 is — $25,000. (Milken Family Foundation photo)