Music educator Ashley Dunne thought Wednesday would be a routine day at Gainfield Elementary in Southbury, ending with a school-wide assembly—what the school calls a Gainfield Gathering. When special guests turned up at the Gainfield Gathering, Dunne was in for the surprise of her career as it was announced that she is the recipient of a Milken Educator Award, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize.
“The moment I heard my name and found out that I was chosen for this really distinguished award I was shocked and surprised. I was so excited, humbled, and honored,” said Dunne, who has been working at Gainfield for nine years. “I work with so many amazing people here, and so many of them could earn an award just like this. I feel very, very grateful. I walked forward, and everything seemed to be a blur after that. It’s just such an exciting day.”
She added, “On behalf of all of my colleagues here at Gainfield School and in Region 15, we do what we do because we love kids, and we love working with students. I’m just so grateful that I get to come to school every day and work with such an amazing group of kids and a wonderful group of teachers.”
Watch the moment when Dunne found out she’d won the Milken Educator Award.
“Ashley Dunne harnesses the power music education holds in shaping the minds of young learners,” said Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley. “Just like her music, Ashley’s impact fills the halls of Gainfield Elementary and into the community. With her enthusiastic leadership at the school and district levels, it is no surprise that students and teachers alike sing her praises.”
Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker said, “Ashley Dunne has proven to be the heartbeat of her school community, supporting numerous initiatives, mentoring, and continuously striving for professional growth. I congratulate Ashley on receiving this award and thank her for inspiring her students to become musicians through creativity, performance, and a deep love for music.”
Dunne’s music room is a joyful environment where all K-5 students at the school are encouraged to explore their musical interests and talents. By allowing students to create, perform, and respond to music, she fosters a love of learning that also benefits students’ other areas of study.
As an instructional teacher leader for the district’s K-12 music programs, Dunne increased student participation in chorus and instrumental activities by revamping the fifth grade instrumental music program, including the fourth grade student recruitment process. A lifelong learner, she elevates her instructional practices by presenting at and participating in conferences, mentoring student teachers, and observing lessons.
The Milken Educator 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.
Dunne and other honorees will 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 and learn how to broaden their impact on K-12 education. Honorees also receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy.