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Grady County native awarded Milken Educator Award

COLLEAGUES AND VISITING DIGNITARIES help Dr. Johnnie Marshall hold up his oversized Milken Educator Award check. From left, Valdosta Early College Academy Principal Mae McKinney; Alice Johnson, district director for Georgia U.S. Representative Austin Scott; Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods; recipient Dr. Johnnie Marshall; Valdosta City Schools Superintendent Dr. William Todd Cason; and Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards. (photo credits: Milken Family Foundation)

A Grady County native who is a school administrator in Valdosta was surprised during a school assembly Thursday when he was announced as the recipient of a prestigious national award.

Dr. Johnnie Marshall is assistant principal at Valdosta Early College Academy (VECA) where every student at the grade 6-12 school gets a Mac tablet or laptop, thanks to Marshall. He set up the 1:1 device initiative through a partnership with Valdosta State University several years ago.
Thursday, Marshall was presented with a Milken Educator Award, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. He is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Georgia this year, and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20.
“Recognizing that the power of technology can only increase the potential of his students, Dr. Johnnie Marshall lights the way for both the faculty and his students,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of Milken Educator Awards.
“Dr. Johnnie Marshall is a committed, supportive, and inspiring educator who builds relationships with his students, invests in their lives, and prepares them for a better future,” said Richard Woods, Georgia school superintendent.”He is eminently deserving of this honor and I’m grateful to the Milken Family Foundation for recognizing this outstanding Georgia educator.”
The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching”, not only aims to reward great teachers, but also to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders.
In an emailed response to The Messenger about the award, Marshall stated that his years growing up in Whigham and Grady County helped make him the educator he is today. “From the faith-based teachings, work ethic, and character-building of the Marshall and Cornell families and the St. Paul M.B. Church, to all of my teachers from Whigham School and Cairo High School who provided opportunities for me to critically think and develop leadership skills, the Grady County village equipped me with the skills necessary to prosper in my purpose in life—education. I’m grateful for the many life lessons, encouragement, and support throughout the years.”
At his school in Valdosta, Marshall stays on top of technology and application updates, trains students and teachers, organizes distribution of the devices, and leads a team of student techies to keep the devices charged, synced and updated.
Teachers attend “Appy Hours,” Marshall’s professional learning sessions, to keep up-to-date on the latest educational applications. Because of the program’s demonstrated improvement in student achievement, hundreds more iPads have been purchased for other schools in the district.
Marshall helps seniors develop digital portfolios to showcase their high school experiences and post-secondary goals during college signing day celebrations. He also sponsors student-led digital media competitions during National Early College Week. In a school where sixth-graders arrive lagging their peers academically and with risk factors for high school graduation, seniors leave with at least one year of dual-enrollment college credit and scholarships to support their future studies.
Marshall serves as VECA’s instructional leader, monitoring academic achievement and providing professional development to help teachers address any gaps. Marshall serves as the school’s public relations coordinator and sits on the district’s strategic planning committee as well as the dean’s advisory board at VSU’s College of Education and Human Services. An Apple Distinguished Educator, Marshall has trained teachers on using technology in the classroom at conferences worldwide. He was chosen to participate in the Governor’s School Leadership Academy Aspiring Principals Program and teaches future educators at VSU.
As VECA’s parent and family engagement coordinator, Marshall collaborates with the school to develop their Parent and Family Engagement Plan and oversees the Title I Parent Involvement Program. Special classes and training sessions familiarize parents with the technology that students use, sharing techniques that parents can employ at home to support their children’s studies. In addition to coordinating VECA’s STEM initiatives, science fair, robotics program and annual eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., Marshall serves as the school’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coach.
Marshall earned a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education in 2010, a master’s in middle grades education in 2013 and a doctorate in educational leadership in 2018, all from Valdosta State University.  He is the son of Carrie and Johnnie Marshall of Whigham.
Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.

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