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Teacher, Cranston Resident, Wins Prestigious Milken Award

Yanaiza Gallant, a Cranston resident and teacher in Providence, was surprised with a $25,000 check and was named a 2012 Milken Educator — a prestigious award for leading educators.

Yanaiza Gallant went into school earlier this week thinking it was just another day.

She was in for a surpise. Waiting for her at the Lillian Feinstein @ Sackett Elementary School were Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Acting Education Commissioner David V. Abbott, and Dr. Jane Foley of the Milken Family Foundation.

They were there to present Gallant, a reading intervention specialist, a 2012 Milken Educator Award to Yanaiza Gallant, a Reading Intervention Specialist at the school.

Gallant has taught in the Providence Public Schools for nine years, including stints as a bilingual teacher in grades 4 and 5 at the Alfred A. Lima Elementary School and as a Reading Coach at the Edmund Flynn Elementary School. She has worked at Lillian Feinstein @ Sackett Elementary for the past year. A Cranston resident, Mrs. Gallant is a graduate of Rhode Island College with degrees in social work, elementary education, and reading. 

“As a graduate of the Providence Public Schools, I know first-hand the importance of excellent teachers who inspire their students to love learning and to succeed in school,” said Mayor Taveras. “I want to thank the Milken Family Foundation for honoring Yanaiza Gallant with this prestigious award and for recognizing some of the great work going on every day in our Providence schools.”

“Yanaiza Gallant represents the best among Rhode Island teachers,” said George D. Caruolo, Chairman of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. “She has devoted her career to working with young students in some of our most highpoverty communities, and she has achieved a record of great success in improving student achievement. I congratulate her on receiving this prestigious award.”

“Mrs. Gallant understand the importance of providing opportunities for all students to learn,” said Acting Education Commissioner Abbott. “She developed a program to bring entering first graders into school in August for early assessment, she started a Winter Science Camp to focus students on academics during the winter break, and she has worked with Inspiring Minds to train 60 volunteers to help students. Her record of innovation and her commitment to all students, including the youngest learners, is an example of excellence that the Milken Family Foundation has recognized and honored.” 

“Yanaiza is recognized by both her peers and district leadership as an incredible leader, with a contagious level of energy and enthusiasm, and a gift for developing the skills of her colleagues and students alike,” said Dr. Susan Lusi, Providence Schools Superintendent. “She's become a trusted voice within our community and advocates fearlessly for our students and educators. Her passion for children, education, and social justice is inspiring.”

As one of her colleagues said about Mrs. Gallant: “Teachers love her, because she respects them, listens to them, and works with them to make sure they succeed.”

Another said: “Yanaiza researches best practices, communicates with anyone and everyone, … mentors university students, and goes above and beyond, devoting extra hours and days” to her school and her students.”

A third said: “When you are around her, you feel a lot of positive energy focused on doing what’s right for students. Yanaiza’s interactions with students reflect sincere respect, caring, and cultural understanding.”

“The visibility and reputation of the Milken Educator Awards result in unlimited opportunities for educators to powerfully impact education at local, state and national levels,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. 

The award, which comes with an unrestricted payment of $25,000, honors exceptional educators for their work. Each recipient receives the award in a surprise ceremony; educators do not apply for the award, nor are they aware that they have been nominated for the honor.

This fall, about 40 educators around the country will receive Milken Family Foundation 2012 Milken Educator Awards. The program has been administered in Rhode Island since 1990, and there have been 71 Milken Award winners so far in the state.

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