Career Change: Milken Award Winner Answers Her Calling to Teach

It was the tragic homicide of her first husband that brought fifth grade math teacher Jennifer Evans Lowery to her true calling.

Initially, Lowery completed a bachelor’s in business and pursued a career as an investment analyst.

“I chose that career because it was a ‘logical’ choice,” Lowery said.

The Milken Educator Award winner said she chose a career in finance because her husband was an Oklahoma State trooper and she wanted to have a more lucrative career to supplement his income since his pay was “unbelievably low at the time.”

On Thursday, August 31, 2000, Lowery’s first husband, trooper Mathew Scott Evans, was killed in the line of duty at age 24 after just one year on the job.

“When he passed, I realized life was entirely too short to work simply for money,” she said.

She went back to college and earned another bachelor’s and a master’s in elementary education.

“I took a pay cut because I was called to teach,” said Lowery, who teaches at Mid-Del’s Highland Park Elementary.

And called she was. The seven-year teaching veteran was selected as one of this year’s 55 Milken Educator Award winners nationwide.

The Milken Educator award honors and rewards outstanding K-12 educators for the quality of their teaching, their professional leadership, their engagement with families and the community, and their potential for even greater contributions to the healthy development of children. The honor also comes with a $25,000 reward.

Lowery said the secret to her success is simple. Her first job is to impart to students a love for learning, not simply a means to pass a test.

“I wouldn’t be truthful if I said standardized tests don’t worry me, they do. But my joy comes from the kids, not from the results.”

She said finding alternatives to paper and pencil, whether it is using technology, purposeful movement activities, white boards or team collaboration, is imperative to making learning new and inviting to kids.

Despite her intentional lack of focus on test scores, results are exactly what she’s been getting. There has been a 30 percent increase in the number of fifth graders scoring advanced in math on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test.

Lowery said it is important for her to help her students understand why they need to know math concepts.

“If students see a reason for trying and know that you believe in them, they will nearly always respond favorably,” she said. “They need to know that we believe in them not only to complete assignments correctly, but to make good decisions and plan for the future.”

Lowery is known for incorporating games and collaborative teaching methods with multiple subjects into just one project. She regularly integrates her passion for cooking with her insatiable appetite for innovative instruction.

She hosts pancake breakfasts as a way to show parents how to give their kids the proper nutrition, especially during testing periods. She also teaches cooking lessons to reinforce math concepts like fractions.

“The wonderful thing about teaching is that every class period is a time to start fresh, to leave what happened at home at home and what happened in the last class period right where it belongs – the last class period. We continually get a fresh start and so do our kids.”

Visit for more photos, videos and information about the latest Milken Educator Award recipients.

Story written by Kandis West and published in the December 2010 / January 2011 edition of the Education Focus.

Photo Caption: Milken Award winner Jennifer Evans Lowery trades answers with Taylor Davis during a classroom exercise.


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