A Pinellas County math and science teacher was recognized Thursday with the "Oscar of Teaching" and a $25,000 prize.

  • Lukas Hefty math and science coordinator at Jamerson Elementary School
  • Hefty one of 35 recognized with honor in 2016, only Florida recipient
  • Hefty led evolution of school's Engineering Units curriculum

Jamerson Elementary School math and science coordinator Lukas Hefty received the prestigious Milken Educator Award, one of 35 teachers nationwide recognized with the honor in 2016. Hefty was Florida's only Milken Award recipient this year.

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley presented the Award to a surprised Hefty at an all-school assembly January 12. The honor, which Teacher magazine calls the "Oscar of Teaching," includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize that Hefty can use any way he chooses.

Present for the presentation were Florida Department of Education Deputy Chancellor of Educator Quality Dr. Brian Dassler, Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Hefty is credited with developing Jamerson's Engineering Units, a STEM curriculum for all grade-levels, including kindergarten.

On Hefty watch coordinating STEM education at Jamerson, test scores in the math and science disciplines have dramatically changed. In 2011, reportedly only 48 percent of fifth-grade students achieved a level 3 or higher on the science FCAT.

By 2015, that percentage climbed to 81 percent. Currently, the school's math and science scores rank in the top five among Pinellas's 80 elementary schools.

In addition, Jamerson was named the nations top elementary STEM program at the Future of Education Technology Conference in 2016.

To learn more about Hefty's achievements and the Milken Awards, visit their website at milkeneducatorawards.org.