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Two Arizona teachers honored with $25,000 educator award

PHOENIX — Two teachers at Phoenix schools were honored with a prestigious education award and a $25,000 cash prize Thursday.

Shalini Sharma, a fifth-grade teacher at Friendly House Academia del Pueblo and Ana Gutierrez, a master teacher at Longview Elementary School, were presented with the prestigious Milken Educator Award.

Sharma and Gutierrez were granted the award and the cash prize before their entire schools. The women are the only Arizona recipients for the 2014-2015 school year and two of just 40 winners nationwide.

The awards were presented by Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, who showered the educators with high praise.

Sharma, who led her students to increase their math and reading benchmark scores, uses her own beliefs in her students’ abilities to inspire them to work hard.

“It is an honor to be able to recognize the outstanding work of a teacher like Shalini Sharma in such a meaningful way,” Douglas said. “I am truly impressed by the positive impact she has had on so many students, parents and teachers in both her school and community. She will no doubt continue to change lives for years to come.”

Gutierrez is a master teacher in the TAP System at Longview, where she helps drive instruction. Milken said Gutierrez plays an integral role in her school’s efforts to help students succeed.

“She is a trusted mentor whose work in sharing best practices and guiding others is making a difference at the school, district, state and national levels,” Milken said in an interview with AZEDNews.com.

Established in 1987 as a part of the Milken Family Foundation, the award aims to reward and honor top educators around the country.

“The Milken Educator Awards targets early-to-mid career education professionals for their already impressive achievements and, more significantly, for the promise of what they will accomplish in the future,” according to the website.