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​​Rhode Island College alumna and 2018 Milken Family Foundation honoree Michelle Johnson (third from left) accepts $25,000 check. Johnson, a teacher at Mary E. Fogarty Elementary in Providence, is flanked by Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards; Providence Commissioner of Public Safety Steven Pare; Rhode Island State Senator Harold Metts and Colleen Callahan, a Rhode Island Department of Education board member (Photo courtesy of Milken Family Foundation)


As the only Rhode Island recipient of the 2018-2019 Milken Educator Award, Michelle Johnson ’06, M. Ed ’14, a third-grade teacher at Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School in Providence, joins a host of Rhode Island College-prepared educators who have consistently won awards in recent years.

Billed as the “Oscars of teaching,” the Milken honor came with a $25,000 check in Johnson’s name. She received the check during a surprise ceremony at her school on October 17.

“I’m stunned,” Johnson said about receiving the award. “It’s such an honor to be recognized for something I truly love to do.”

She credited Rhode Island College for paving the way to her career as an educator. 

“Professors at RIC gave me the confidence to put what I learned into practice,” Johnson said. “I believe the English as a Second Language (ESL) certification I received at RIC is the main reason I landed the position to teach at this school. I learned great strategies and tools in ESL that I use to this day.”

Johnson, who has been working at the school on Oxford Street in Providence for five years, stands at the center of a classroom filled with youngsters striving to learn English. All of her students began the last school year behind in reading, but all reached grade level by year’s end, and 40 percent exceeded beyond grade level. Math scores also jumped 67 percent in her class last year – the highest increase in the school. 

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Milken Educator Award honoree Michelle Johnson receives hugs from her students after award announcement

“My reward is seeing the everyday growth in the students, learning multiplication tables and reading sentences that they couldn’t read before,” Johnson said. “But to win this award alongside such great people, colleagues and staff is definitely rewarding as well.”

Listed below are other award-winning educators that RIC’s Feinstein School of Education and Human Development has produced in recent years: 

  • Kristen Stringfellow ’88, M. Ed ’93, 2017 Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year, South Kingstown Schools
  • John Fontaine ’08, 2018 Rhode Island Assistant Principal of the Year, Cranston Schools
  • Tracy Lafreniere ’98, 2016 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, North Smithfield Schools 
  • Scott Beauregard, ’96, 2015 Golden Apple Award recipient, Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Pawtucket
  • Michael Bento ’02, 2016 Golden Apple Award recipient, North Providence Schools
  • Kendra Borden ’08, 2015 Milken Educator Award recipient, Pawtucket Schools
  • Casey Rainha ’12, 2016 Golden Apple Award recipient, Blackstone Valley Prep, Cumberland
  • Carolyn Fortuna ’10, 2015 International Reading Association Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading, Franklin Mass. Schools
  • Georgia Fortunato ’81, 2016 Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year, Lincoln Schools
  • Maureen Wales ’82, 2017 Atlanta Journal Constitution Celebrating Teachers Award winner, Alpharetta (Ga.) Schools
  • Alan Tenreiro ’98, M. Ed ’05, 2016 National Principal of the Year, formerly of Cumberland Schools and current president of Mount St. Charles Academy, Woonsocket
  • Barbara Pellegrino ’93, 2016 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching recipient, Warwick Schools
  • Hilary Lundgren ’14, 2016 Golden Apple Award and Rhode Island Digital Learning Champion, West Broadway Schools, Providence
  • Lori Califano M. Elem. Ed ’02, 2015 Golden Apple Award recipient, Cranston Schools
  • Lonna Razza, ’00, 2018 Golden Apple Award recipient, Warwick Schools
  • Janita Ducharme ’08, 2018 Golden Apple Award recipient, Cumberland Schools
  • Melanie Roy M. Ed ’99, 2018 Golden Apple Award recipient, Barrington Schools
  • Paula Schiavone ’03, 2018 Golden Apple Award recipient, North Kingstown Schools
  • Carmen Naz ’15, 2018 District Teacher of the Year, Achievement First Schools, Providence
  • Jamie Miller ’04 M.A.T., 2018 District Teacher of the Year, Beacon Charter Schools, Woonsocket
  • Kristen Costa ’06, 2018 District Teacher of the Year, Cumberland Schools
  • Keith Martinous ’96, 2018 District Teacher of the Year, East Providence Schools
  • Nancy Riccardi ’97, M.Ed ’03, District Teacher of the Year, East Providence Schools
  • Kevin Cordeiro ’12, 2018 District Teacher of the Year, Trinity Academy Schools, Providence
  • Doreen Picozzi ’79, 2018 District Teacher of the Year, Lincoln Schools
  • Yanaiza Gallant ’01, M. Elem. Ed ’11, 2012 Milken Educator Award, formerly of Lillian Feinstein Elementary in​ Providence but currently principal at Orlo Elementary, East Providence