May 8th, 2012
06:23 AM ET

Milken Award-winning teacher changes lives despite lack of resources

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 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.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. erik

    When you use your smart phone to find out which candidate you want to vote for you become angry and your head releases heat.

    When you become angry over having to try to decide which candidate is the lesser moron, your head releases heat and heats up the atmosphere.

    When you heat up the atmosphere some energy is transferred to the sun causing a protracted coronal mass ejection which would render your cell phone useless.

    Don’t let a protracted coronal mass ejection render your cell phone useless.

    May 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  2. Luna Lovegood

    I see a lot of flaws in this type of education.

    May 9, 2012 at 3:40 am |
  3. Paul Carmody

    What about the students who cannot (or their parents cannot) afford a smartphone and its required data plan?

    May 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  4. Ice Cube in Ice T

    These kids be texting each other the answers.

    May 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  5. middle school EFL teacher

    What a morale boost for teachers at the end of the school year. In my experience as a student and as a teacher, I've encountered far more positive, dedicated, hard-working, talented teachers than lazy, indifferent old cranks (although I must recognize having encountered the latter among both my teachers when I was a student and two my current collegues).
    In any case, hats off to you, Ms. Silveri. Thank you for your dedication, professionalism and most of all, your effectiveness! It's people like you who should go into teacher education in teacher preparation & professionalisation programs.

    May 8, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • middle school EFL teacher

      * two of

      May 8, 2012 at 11:53 am |