Melody Coryell MFA ’15, an English teacher and the coordinator of Shortridge High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, has been awarded a $25,000 Milken Family Foundation Educator Award—“the Oscars of Teaching”—for her work bringing IB education to Shortridge and promoting the rigorous curriculum around the state.
“I had no idea,” she said after a ceremony in the Shortridge gym that included the school’s drumline and cheerleaders, as well as introductions by Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. “There was not even any weird eye contact or anything. I’m shocked. I’m incredibly shocked.”
Coryell has taught for 11 years. She joined the Shortridge faculty after a decade at Lawrence North High School as an IB coordinator and English teacher, as well as a few years in university faculty development.
“I have a clear mission for my work in education,” Coryell said. “That is, I believe in the IB, I believe in the IB philosophy, and I believe it can work for all kids. So decisions I make as an educator are geared toward that. And I also believe that a relationship with students and teaching them to reflect on who they are as learners, and listening to them and seeking to understand and move them forward in their own goals, can lead them to succeed.”
Jane Foley, Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President, said Coryell “is not only a leader at Shortridge High School, she’s a leader in the IB program throughout the state. She’s the vice president of the state association for IB and she’s also known for helping colleagues and working with universities to determine how they’re going to give college credit for IB courses.”
Coryell earned her bachelor’s degree at Ball State University and then worked at IUPUI in professional development. She did her teacher training at Indiana Wesleyan University. In her bio on the Shortridge website, Coryell describes herself as “a lifelong learner” with coursework in literature, history, secondary education, higher education, and writing.
She said that when she started her Master of Fine Arts at Butler, friends wondered what she would do with the degree.
“But it’s made me a much better teacher,” she said.
Ritz praised Coryell for preparing students “to be global citizens through a high-quality, international curriculum. And as a teacher-leader, she supports and encourages her colleagues to ensure that students are receiving an education of the highest quality. As Indiana’s schools continue to experience a teacher shortage, now more than ever it is important to recognize the work of outstanding educators like Melody and to encourage the next generation to follow her example.”
The winners of the prestigious Milken Awards are chosen in secrecy, Foley said. There is no nomination or application process. Instead, the recipients are chosen through a confidential selection process.
“We look at the entire country and then we determine who we believe represents the top 1 percent of the profession,” Foley said. “Then the award literally falls from the sky to say thank you to educators who are doing amazing work. We want them to know that their work has been noticed and appreciated, and we want them to stay in education forever.”