Alumna surprised with prestigious Milken Educator Award

Deborah Siebern Dennis

© Milken Family Foundation

Deborah Siebern-Dennis (B.A. ’05), a seventh grade science teacher at Bode Middle School in St. Jopseh, Mo., was surprised with the prestigious 2016 Milken Educator Award and $25,000.


Known around Bode Middle School as the “queen of classroom management,” Siebern-Dennis received the surprise of her lifetime before students, colleagues, media and distinguished officials, including Margie Vandeven, Ph.D., Missouri Department of Education Commissioner. In true awards show-style, her name was called out and she was given the prized navy blue envelope by Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Jane Foley, Ph.D.


Siebern-Dennis is among up to 40 educators who will receive the prestigious national honor during the Milken Family Foundation’s (MFF) coast-to-coast tour across the country during the 2015-16 Awards season. MFF has been rewarding outstanding elementary and secondary educators with the Award since 1987. Siebern-Dennis is the 45th recipient in Missouri since the program was implemented in the state in 1996.


“We are delighted that Deborah has received this recognition from the Milken Educator Awards,” said Vandeven. “Deborah is a great example of the how the teaching profession enriches opportunities for Missouri students by promoting a love for learning.”


Siebern-Dennis believes in the constructivist theory of learning and with science that is a great fit. She skillfully uses the 5E instructional model to engage students in science concepts, which allows for time to engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate. Her students have been described as problem-solvers, risk takers and lovers of science, thanks to Siebern-Dennis’s creativity in the classroom and leadership skills.


Whether it’s social networking, writing for the classroom blog or producing a digital short, technology is an instrumental part of Siebern-Dennis’s teaching practices. She uses it as a driving force to connect ideas to the real world and build excitement around learning. Many students come to her classroom with little to no knowledge of Internet tools and leave understanding how to make effective use of technology.


As a testament to her extraordinary commitment as a teacher who strives to find ways to help every student succeed, Siebern-Dennis’s 7th grade students have the highest benchmark scores in the district.


She’s also an important contributor to benchmark tests and curriculum development as chair of the district science team and member of the Bode leadership group. She worked with the Bode science team to write and implement a $10,000 Toyota TAPESTRY Grant for “Mastering the Art of Communication in Science.” Siebern-Dennis, who often shares her results and strategies at local, state and national levels, is a mentor to many fellow teachers who look up to her as a school leader.