Prairieville teacher Elise Frederic receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Staff Report
Ascension Parish first grade teacher Elise Frederic stands among her students as she is named Louisiana Milken Educator.

At Lakeside Primary School in Prairieville, Elise Frederic's first graders dive into a visual world of literacy from the moment they enter her classroom.

Her young students are entertained by creative activities like transferring sounds to writing in sand or gel, all while mastering phonics and classroom reading criteria.

On Jan. 24, Frederic received a Milken Educator Award for her innovative teaching, which has caught on schoolwide, at a surprise assembly surrounded by cheering colleagues and students, along with state and local officials and media

Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken and Lakeside Primary School Principal Laurent Thomas join Elise Frederic in her first grade classroom as students get a closer look at the giant $25,000 check.

Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken, joined by Louisiana Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley, presented Frederic with the surprise recognition. Frederic is among up to 40 elementary educators across the country to be awarded by the Milken Family Foundation this school year. She will receive an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize and join a network of more than 2,900 Milken Educator Award recipients and other leaders dedicated to strengthening K-12 education. 

"Virtually all people can name at least one teacher who has had an extraordinary impact on their lives. Elise Frederic is that kind of foundational teacher whose care and compassion have helped shape young learners into future leaders," said Lowell Milken. "Equally impressive, Elise is an exceptional instructional role model for her peers in the school, district and broader community." 

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year's winners' list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award. 

"Elise Frederic is an educator who stays ahead of the curve in constantly discovering new methods to improve student outcomes," said Dr. Brumley. "By also serving as a guide for fellow teachers, every child at Lakeside Primary benefits from her dedication to her craft." 

Since 1987, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.  

Advances in literacy

Young learners in Ascension Public Schools make great strides in literacy thanks in part to Frederic. She is a resident expert in helping to meld phonics with comprehension. Her students use mirrors to visualize new phonetic skills and write words in sand or gel as they transfer new learned sounds to writing. Literacy is visible in Frederic's room, which includes a "sound wall" that links new sounds and mouth movements, and floor tiles covered with pictures representing reading criteria. Frederic helps each child set daily goals and pairs students strategically to address their specific needs.

Her laser focus on literacy delivers in spades — in 2021-22, more than 90% of her students reached mastery on district benchmark assessments in ELA, and 70% achieved mastery in math. Colleagues have adopted many of Frederic's literacy strategies, seeing significant growth across Lakeside's early grades as a result. 

School, district leadership

Frederic constantly researches innovative instructional strategies, introducing concepts like The Writing Revolution to Ascension's master teachers for field testing. She has served as a TAP mentor teacher through Ascension Parish's partnership with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, leads her grade-level professional learning community, contributed to district math and ELA committees and attended the Ascension Leadership Academy. Frederic is a teacher leader advisor for the Louisiana Department of Education, helming its K-2 instructional materials review team, and welcomes student teachers into her classroom.

She is a resource for literacy instructional strategies in her building and district, but also beyond: Frederic created a Facebook group for Louisiana educators to discuss the science of reading, connecting hundreds of teachers who share resources and professional development opportunities. 

Supporting the whole child

When the pandemic closed school buildings in March 2020, Frederic created an informative video series for parents to share strategies for building fine motor skills, conducting read-alouds and helping children with phonological awareness and phonics. As classrooms reopened, Frederic focused on student well-being, holding morning meetings where students made commitments for the day and checked in on their emotions. Students had personal "calming corners" under each desk where they could regroup, and visual schedules and classroom jobs helped the young learners feel valued and part of Frederic’s classroom family. When illness or quarantine kept students home, Frederic went to great lengths to keep them connected to their peers and class routines, making each return to school an event to be celebrated. 

Educational background

Frederic earned a bachelor's in elementary education (2007) and a master's in educational leadership (2016) from Southeastern Louisiana University, as well as a master's in education with reading specialist certification in 2010 from Louisiana State University.