Public Charter School Physics Teacher Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Thurgood Marshall Academy students cheer on Milken Award winner Kena Allison

Thurgood Marshall Academy students are exuberant as Physics teacher and Instructional Specialist Kena Allison is honored by the Milken Family Foundation. Photo Credit: Milken Family Foundation

This wasn’t your ordinary high school assembly or pep rally. As students filed into the auditorium at Thurgood Marshall Academy, representing their class proudly, supporting the school cheerleaders with their own joyful cheers, and under the belief that the morning school assembly was special acknowledgement of their school’s academic achievement; Executive Director Alexandra Pardo had something entirely different in store for the school Students and teachers alike would be surprised that their very own Physics Teacher and Instructional Specialist Kena Allison was being rewarded as a top educator. But no one was more stunned than Kena herself.

Alexandra Pardo was joined by State Superintendent Jesús Aguirre, Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith and Co-Founder Mike Milken of the Milken Family Foundation to present Kena with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award, the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program that was conceived to attract, retain and motivate outstanding talent in the teaching profession. Known as the “Oscar of Teaching,” not only is the Milken distinguished because the award winners have no idea they will be honored for their exceptional contributions, but they are also awarded based on the premise of what they will accomplish rather than life achievements attained thus far.

Described as “irreplaceable” and “the consummate innovator,” Kena’s accomplishments stretch beyond the classroom. She is also the science department chair, collaborating with colleagues to study Next Generation Science Standards and leading professional development. For her tireless efforts, she received a Harvard Fellowship for Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness in High Schools. Over the years, she has diagnosed and fixed systemic school challenges, repaired the broken dreams of her students, and contributed to improving the academic, emotional, and physical health of not just her students but of her entire school and community.

“I love what I do, I love our students, and I love this community,” said Kena Allison.

So, it wasn’t an ordinary assembly; it was an extraordinary assembly.

To view the celebration honoring Kena Allison, visit


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