JACKSON — A township teacher who’s motivated students to be more green-minded has been given a $25,000 cash award to use as she wishes.

Shaina Brenner, who teaches second graders at Elms Elementary School, was surprised to be presented with a Milken Educator Award at a recent school-wide assembly of peers, students and state and local officials.

Brenner helped create a new recycling initiative at the school, involving bins and signs for every classroom and a "Green Team" of students that support classroom efforts, leads school-wide energy contests, and provides training, tools, and resources for sharing conservation ideas.

Her leadership on environmental efforts was a factor in the school being named the first national Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education this past April on Earth Day.

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At least one educator in NJ has been among recipients of the Milken awards each year for the past two decades.

There is no formal nomination or application process. Instead, “candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state,” according to the organization.

Final selections are made by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients of the unrestricted cash awards have spent funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children, according to the foundation.

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