Teacher Surprised with 2023 Milken Educator Award

Fifth grade teacher Magali Gomez’ high expectations for students yield academic and personal growth in her classroom
Posted on 12/12/2023
Pictured, from left, Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley; Ruben S. Torres Elementary School Principal Connie Maag; New Mexico Lt. Governor Howie Morales; recipient Magali Gomez (NM '23); New Mexico Secretary of Public Education Dr. Arsenio Romero; New Mexico Public Education Department Public Information Officer Be… See moreWhen Magali Gomez walked into the Ruben S. Torres Elementary School gymnasium this morning for a school assembly, she was expecting to cheer on her students as they received accolades for improved attendance rates. Instead, she was the one being celebrated as Dr. Jane Foley, Milken Educator Awards senior vice president, New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales and Dr. Arsenio Romero, New Mexico secretary of public education, surprised Gomez with the 2023 Milken Educator Award.

Gomez received the honor before cheering students, colleagues, dignitaries and media. The Award comes with a $25,000 cash prize that recipients can use however they choose, as well as lifelong membership to the Milken Educator Network to collaborate with fellow recipients and broaden their impact on K-12 education.

“Magali Gomez truly embodies the spirit of the Milken Educator Award. She is a teacher leader, an innovator in the classroom, and an inspirational role model who achieves great gains with her students,” said Dr. Jane Foley, a 1994 Milken Educator Award recipient from Indiana. “Her passion for cultivating tangible learning experiences in her classroom motivates her young students to envision a future for themselves as exemplary leaders in their community, just like their teacher. We offer our heartfelt congratulations to her!"

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Awards will honor up to 75 recipients across the country in 2023-24 as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. 2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to “Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate” the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career.

“I am thrilled for Magali Gomez, the Ruben S. Torres Elementary students and staff, and the Deming community that she is being recognized for her incredible work in the classroom,” said Dr. Romero. “Her ability to adapt the latest evidence-based teaching models to relatable lessons for her students has produced tremendous academic achievement growth in reading, math, and language. Combined with her leadership in her school and willingness to go the extra mile for her students makes her exactly the kind of educator New Mexico students deserve.”

The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the Award.

More About Magali Gomez

Teacher Leader and Team Mentor: At Ruben S. Torres Elementary School, located in a remote corner of New Mexico, Gomez has established herself as a steadfast teacher leader and inspiring mentor who works every day to support her colleagues and achieve notable academic and personal growth for her students. From the first day of school, Gomez sets her classroom expectations high, and her students regularly rise to meet the challenge.

Innovative Curriculum in Classroom: Known as an innovative educator who drives student-led learning, Gomez embraces methodologies such as empowering students to use data-trackers to chart their own growth as they learn new sight words; incorporating color-coded strategies for teaching math, an approach that yields greater understanding for her students; teaching communications skills through a hands-on journalism project that encourages students to use data-driven journalism techniques to inform their writing; and weaving project-based learning (PBL) throughout her curriculum to foster student cooperation and spark creativity. Her students’ first PBL project this year was to create their “ideal learning environment,” and the class developed an outdoor classroom space for science and other related subjects.

Hands-On Opportunities for Learning: Gomez regularly looks for ways to inspire students to see a future career for themselves: inviting local newspaper journalists to the school for a Black History Month project and outdoor art installation; hosting the Public Service Company of New Mexico to speak to her students when she taught about electricity; and facilitating other real-world, team-based learning projects for students to elevate their academic performance and instill a sense of responsibility and curiosity. In addition, as a former therapist, she brings social emotional learning techniques into her classroom, ensuring that the needs of the whole child are consistently met.

Service-Oriented Mindset Extends Beyond School: Gomez’s leadership extends beyond her classroom, into the school and greater community where she is seen as a leader and mentor for her peers at the elementary school; serving as a court-appointed advocate for foster children; an honorary board member of Playsharity, a hands-on children's museum; and an adjunct professor in social work at Western New Mexico University. She embodies a spirit of service to both her students and the community and can be regularly found helping non-native English speakers with taxes or benefit applications, caring for the homeless, and helping migrant families adjust to their new lives in Deming.

Education: Gomez completed a Bachelor of Social Work from Western New Mexico University (WNMU) in 2012. She continued her postgraduate education at WNMU, earning two master’s degrees: Master of Social Work (2017) and Master in the Art of Teaching (2021).

More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: “The Future Belongs to the Educated”

-The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in June 2024, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.
-Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.
-Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 
-The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.