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Classroom creativity earns Freeman ’04 Milken Educator Award

Kimberly Freeman ’04 has opened the door for learners to discover an ancient language and culture through a blended curriculum that links to modern tools and learning goals.

She has gotten Lexington Middle School students excited about studying Latin by incorporating themes like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games into her lessons. She also designed and instructs a new project-based learning course called 702 North Lake (the address of Lexington Middle School), in which students use social media tools to confront local and global issues.

Freeman’s passion for teaching was recently recognized with the prestigious 2015-16 Milken Educator Award for South Carolina and a $25,000 check. She is the third Furman alumnus to receive the honor.

The Milken Educators program, started by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987, recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education. Teachers in South Carolina are recommended for the award by an independent blue-ribbon committee appointed by the state Department of Education.

Hailed by Teacher Magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the award is unique in that recipients are selected in early to mid-career for their exceptional educational talent and achievements, and for the promise of what they will accomplish. More than $66 million has been presented to more than 2,600 of the nation’s top educators since the program’s inception.

“I am so proud of Kimberly Freeman and the devotion she exhibits every day to the students and community in Lexington,” said South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “She is truly deserving of this great honor and will stand as a shining example for educators across our state.”

Freeman frames her lessons and assessment practices around collaboration and critical thinking, and has helped guide the district to a shift in performance-based curriculum for world languages. She developed a new system of proficiency assessment using a scaled model based on performance rubrics, self and external assessments and Socratic seminars.

As department chair of Lexington Middle’s world language department, Freeman propelled the once-struggling Latin program to high enrollment at the school, and expanded its reach to 23,000 students districtwide through virtual courses.  Her students’ scores on the National Latin Exam routinely surpass the national average, and Freeman’s Latin academic team won first place at the state’s Certamen Competition in 2014.

“There are a lot of children that walk into our classrooms every day wearing baggage that I can’t imagine as a grown adult,” Freeman said in an interview with The State newspaper. “They shake it at the door, and they learn and they laugh and they love, and they do it so beautifully.”

Freeman is an International Baccalaureate Middle Years certified teacher. She serves as a member of the American Classical League, National Junior Classical League, South Carolina Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers Association as well as the district and state world language curriculum teams, the state standard writing team and the state Foundations in School Leadership (FSL) program.

She began teaching in 2004 after graduating magna cum laude and earning a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education with a classical languages concentration from Furman. Freeman is scheduled to complete her master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of South Carolina this May.

Previous Milken Educator Award winners include alumni Dr. J. Todd White in 2000 and Mike Sinclair in 2013. Mike Sinclair, principal of Brashier Middle College Charter High School in Simpsonville, earned his master’s degree in school leadership from Furman University in 2002.

White ‘88 previously served as principal of Mitchell Road Elementary School in Greenville and was selected as a Furman University Outstanding Young Alumnus in 2002. He earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and his master’s degree in school leadership from Furman and his Ph.D. from Capella University in Minneapolis, Minn.

To read more about Freeman’s honor, visit

Last updated August 5, 2022
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Clinton Colmenares
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