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Pearl River Central High School teacher Chayna Adams receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award


For Immediate Release:  April 22, 2022

JACKSON, Miss. – Pearl River Central High School (PRCHS) lead teacher Chayna Adams received the surprise of a lifetime today when she was awarded an unrestricted $25,000 Milken Educator Award at a 10 a.m. assembly in the school gym.

The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987, recognizes teaching excellence publicly not only to inspire educators, but also students and communities about the importance of joining the teaching profession. The prestigious honor is being awarded at more than 60 schools across the nation in the 2021-22 school year and has been described as “the Oscars of Teaching.” More than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.

Adams along with PRCHS students and staff thought they were assembled in the school gym this morning to receive congratulatory remarks from the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) regarding the school’s commendable Algebra I scores. Instead, Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher and MDE Director of Educator Talent Acquisition and Effectiveness Dr. Courtney Van Cleve joined in the surprise to recognize Adams for her work as a model educator for the state and nation.

“Ms. Adams has done an extraordinary job challenging her students to meet and exceed high academic standards,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “She is a wonderful example of our dedicated Mississippi educators who work hard every day to help students learn and succeed.” 

Adams’ students and colleagues learn more than academics in her care; she teaches them pride, respect and commitment. After years teaching math and heading the math department at PRCHS, Adams is now the school’s lead teacher, responsible for academic tier, schoolwide data and coaching support for instructional staff. She coaches new teachers in instructional practices, organizational skills, student interventions and data analysis. Adams also coordinates school-level professional development based on school and state data. To support the school’s goals for constant improvement of academic and behavior goals, Adams plans and organizes schoolwide incentives for students who meet weekly and monthly targets.

“As a lead teacher, Ms. Adams serves as a model for her peers and works daily to elevate and strengthen the teaching profession,” said MDE’s Dr. Courtney Van Cleve. “She is a worthy recipient of this year’s Milken Award. I join her students, school and community in congratulating her for this accomplishment.”

Adams’ data-driven classroom experience has served her well in her advancement into instructional leadership. As an algebra teacher, Adams used a wide variety of creative, hands-on strategies that support learning for students at all levels, including small group instruction, scaffolded partner activities, guided notes, whiteboard workouts, math “Jeopardy” and matching games. She tracked results on unit and district assessments on a “data wall” and adjusted her instruction to address learning gaps. Adams constantly reinforced positive behaviors in the classroom and communicated with parents about both concerns and successes. Her dedication to student outcomes delivered notable results: The algebra pass rate at PRCHS is 94%, and students in the bottom 25% consistently meet growth and proficiency targets on state assessments.

As math department chair, Adams led instructional rounds, conducted data analysis, coached new teachers and led the professional learning committee (PLC). During pandemic school closures, she used virtual meetings to check in with her department weekly and created video and interactive digital lessons for teachers to use with students. Consulting with the math coach at the MDE, Adams led the redesign of all levels of the school’s algebra curriculum to align with state standards, increase rigor and make content accessible to remote-learning students. She has written test items for Algebra I for state assessments and presented at state and national conferences. Colleagues often observed in Adams’ classroom to learn from her skillful classroom management and instructional strategies.

Adams has taught seven graduating classes at PRCHS, and many former students attribute their successes to her, especially with their college and career choices. She taught the school’s math ACT prep class, using individualized instruction plans to ready students for the important college entrance exams. Adams connects with all students regardless of their math abilities and often attends sports, family events and other activities outside the classroom.

Adams earned a bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2009 and a master’s in educational leadership from Arkansas State University in 2014.

For full bio, photos and video, visit the Milken Educator Awards website:


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About the Milken Educator Awards

The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. The awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at


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Jean Cook, APR
Director of Communication

Shanderia Minor
Public Information Officer