O’Donnell teaches science to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders and through Project Reservoir, which was featured in the Reporter, gives them hands-on experience as they work to on experiments in Jersey City’s Reservoir No. 3 in the Heights. Project Reservoir has become a nationally recognized program that has helped boost achievement at Christa McAuliffe School.
More than 83 percent of O'Donnell's eighth graders pass the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge science exam each year, outperforming the state average. During the 2012-2013 school year, his students won more than $56,000 in savings bonds from science competitions.
O’Donnell, who has taught for 11 years, joins up to 40 other national Milken Educator recipients who will receive the award this year, but is the only New Jersey educator to receive the honor in 2013.
The Milken Educator Award was created by Lowell Milken to attract, retain, and motivate outstanding talent within the teaching profession and it is the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program. Since 1987, the Milken Family Foundation has devoted more than $136 million in funding to the awards.
As part of his honor, O’Donnell will receive an unrestricted $25,000 award.
O’Donnell did not know he was a 2013 Milken recipient until the award was announced at a school assembly Wednesday morning.