HOSA Advisor Receives Milken Educator Award

New Jersey Health Science Teacher / HOSA Advisor Receives $25,000 National Award for Health Care Teaching

Health sciences teacher and HOSA Advisor, Kimberly Moreno of Union City High School, is surrounded by her students as she received the $25,000 Milken Educator Award during a surprise assembly.  Ms. Moreno is New Jersey’s 2015 winner of this prestigious Milken Educator Award in recognition of her teaching abilities and potential.

Milken Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken traveled from California to the small and diverse New Jersey city to surprise Moreno with the award in front of a school-wide assembly.  Not only Moreno, but everyone else in the school, minus the superintendent and principal, thought they were at the assembly to hear the state's assistant education commissioner, who was present, speak about the importance of college.

Moreno, who has worked in the Union City school district for seven years, teaches anatomy, physiology, emergency care and the dynamics of health. She has also led the district's now-four-year-old health-related professions training program since its inception. 

Moreno is also a curriculum writer and course developer for the university's department of interdisciplinary studies, one of the coordinators of the American Chemical Society's Project SEED that allows economically disadvantaged students to research with a scientist during the summer. Also, as the Union City district's advisor of HOSA-Future Health Professionals, a national health-focused student organization, she recently took the students to their first national HOSA competition.

As the advisor of HOSA-Future Health Professionals, a national student organization focusing on health-related careers, Moreno has been instrumental in helping her students enter local, state and national health competitions in which they routinely receive local awards and prizes. Recently, her students swept most of the awards at a regional competition and qualified to compete at the national level in Anaheim, California. Under her leadership, the Union City HOSA chapter is over 140 members strong and conducts two blood drives annually, collecting over 400 pints of blood.

At her school, Moreno is known as a role model to younger teachers. When a new teacher joined the department last year, Moreno took her under her wing and collaborated with her to teach a course in allied health. She often stays after school to coach students and is the ski coach for the winter Special Olympics team.

At Union City High School, where 94 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, the Milken Foundation chairman said the future was promising because of teachers like Moreno.

After winning the award, Moreno gave some brief public remarks, telling the students that "the harder you work, the bigger the impact on our lives."

"I loved the (dynamics of the health care) class," said Moreno's former student Nicole Albornoz, 17. "She's very helpful as a teacher. She would push you forward to do your best. She's very committed."

Moreno said she grew up in Paterson, graduating from DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne, before going on to Montclair State University to graduate with her bachelor's in biology in 2006, and later getting her master's in special education from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. She also received her ESL and supervisory certificates from William Paterson University.

Currently, she is attending a doctoral program for educational leadership at the College of St. Elizabeth, to which she said she expects to devote her prize money.

In connection with Rutgers University Medical School, Union City's health care program offers students college credits and a pre-med honors program, but Moreno's students have recently made history since Rutgers began offering this program with schools 20 years ago. 

"The first year we were part of the program, I had one of my students get a perfect score on their Rutgers Dynamics of Health Care exam which had never been done before," she said. "It was my first year out... To have all of my students earn college credit, it was unimaginable."

It was because of this feat, she said, that the university decided to appoint her as an adjunct professor. 

"It doesn't seem like work when you enjoy what you do you," she said of her packed schedule. "Just prioritize what needs to get done first. My husband supports me in all of my educational endeavors."