Messaging in by video, a beaming Oprah Winfrey saluted the winners of the 2022 Milken Educator Award: “Congratulations on this honor. May you continue to be a light in the world as one of the great educators,” Winfrey told the honorees — a talented group that includes Laura Baker-Coronis, ’11, M.S. ’15, a mathematics teacher at Ansonia High School in Connecticut. The award, hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” was presented to Baker-Coronis on March 31 during a surprise ceremony at the school. It includes a $25,000 unrestricted prize as well as mentoring and leadership opportunities.
Baker-Coronis is one of only 60 K-12 teachers, principals, and specialists from throughout the nation to receive the honor this year — and the only one from Connecticut. She holds two Southern degrees: a bachelor’s in mathematics with a concentration in 7-12 education and a minor in psychology and a graduate degree in education.
Baker-Coronis was lauded for her engaging, real-world approach to teaching mathematics: her students turn to algebra to design their dream cars, compare cell phone plans, and determine which careers provide the most income. Beyond her classroom, she helped launch the Freshman Academy for students transitioning to high school and created a “bank” of thousands of sample math problems for teachers to use when preparing students for the SAT.
This is the second time in recent history that a Southern graduate has received the Milken Award. Lauren Sepulveda, ’10, a middle school social studies teacher in New Haven, won in 2019-20. More recently, Sepulveda was named a 2021 Lowell Milken Center Fellow, an affiliated, highly selective professional development opportunity for top educators who have distinguished themselves in project-based learning.
Sepulveda’s ongoing recognition is telling. The Milken Educator Award is not presented for lifetime achievement. Instead, recipients are honored for exceptional mid-career success and the promise of what they might accomplish given the resources provided with the award.