Press Releases   << All Press Releases


North Royalton Middle School Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Sarah Franko, Fifth Grade Science Teacher at North Royalton Middle School. Honored with “Oscar of Teaching” 

November 07, 2013

North Royalton, OH (November 7, 2013) — During a schoolwide assembly, Sarah Franko, a fifth grade science teacher at North Royalton Middle School, was astonished to learn that she had received a completely unexpected individual reward as a top educator. In front of more than 1,100 cheering students, colleagues and dignitaries, Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Ohio Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Richard A. Ross presented Sarah with a Milken Educator Award. In a moment’s time, this outstanding educator experienced the fanfare typically reserved for all-star athletes and award-winning entertainers.

Hailed by Teacher Magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” what separates this award from others is that the recipients have no idea that they will be honored. This recognition is not a lifetime achievement award. Recipients are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved… and for the promise of what they will accomplish. Encompassed in the recognition is the responsibility for those honored to stretch their professional practices and leadership to even higher levels.

Lending their congratulations were City of North Royalton Mayor Robert Stefanik; City of Broadview Heights Mayor Sam Alai; City of North Royalton Council President Larry Antoskiewicz; City of North Royalton Councilman John Nickell; Ohio House of Representatives District 6 State Representative Marlene Anielski; Bradley Deane, Staff Assistant of Senator Sherrod Brown; and District 7 State Representative Mike Dovilla.

The catchphrase most often heard from Sarah Franko is short and to the point: “What’s best for the kids.” That simple mantra powers Franko’s drive toward educational leadership, classroom innovation, and community involvement on behalf of the fifth-grade science students at North Royalton Middle School.

The first year that Franko taught fifth-grade science, her students’ science scores jumped from 76 percent to 86 percent, a singular accomplishment. Using inquiry-based instruction to engage students in a myriad of science topics, she creates flexible grouping based on student mastery of content and builds in opportunities for students to achieve learning goals. Formative and summative assessments are key to Franko’s instructional method, and she regularly uses pretests and posttests to map her students’ academic growth.  As fifth-grade team coordinator, she developed an online virtual space to bring parents closer to their child’s schoolwork and activities. 

For Franko, part of the responsibility of teaching science is to imbue the next generation with a sense of environmental stewardship. To that end she co-leads the student Green Team and headed a school-wide initiative that raised over $4,000 to benefit H2O for Life, an organization that engages youth to act on behalf of the global water crisis.

At the end of each year Franko steps out of the classroom to chair the school’s Field Day competitions, rallying the athletes and instilling team spirit. This may not sound like a science teacher, but colleagues have noted that her gusto for Field Day is representative of her zeal for the day-to-day challenges of being an educator. She is noted for exuding positive energy and embracing positive change. 

A mentor of young teachers, Franko is a member of the Resident Educator committee, planning the program for new teachers. She has developed common assessments for the department, serves on the Curriculum Assessment and Instruction Committee, and is a three-time presenter at the Ohio Middle Level Association (OMLA) State Conference. Franko’s efforts stay with her students as they continue to secondary school where seniors often note her positive influence in their high school exit interviews.

“Sarah has been instrumental with implementing elements of the middle school concept to promote a positive learning experience for our students,” said Melissa Vojta, principal, North Royalton Middle School.  “She is a collaborative staff member and an amazing example for our younger staff members.  What impresses me most about her is her ability to give 100% to both her home and school life.  I can’t think of a more deserving teacher for this award than Sarah Franko.”

Sarah’s Milken Educator Awards story doesn’t end with her surprise notification. New recipients are invited to join the Milken Educator Network, a group of distinguished educators coast-to-coast whose expertise serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others shaping the future of education. “Milken Educators point to the award as a pivotal professional milestone,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Milken Educator recipient from Indiana.

Since first presented to a dozen California teachers, the program has grown to become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program having honored nearly 2,600 K-12 teachers, principals and specialists. More than $136 million in funding, including over $64 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.  From local to state to national and even international levels, the exponential impact of Milken Educators strengthens American K-12 education.

Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Awards are sourced through each participating state department of education, which appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to confidentially review candidates for recommendation to the Foundation.

Award Criteria:

Candidates for the Milken Educator Awards are selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school;

  • Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession;

  • Individuals whose contributions to education are largely unheralded yet worthy of the spotlight;

  • Early- to mid-career educators who offer strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and

  • Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.


Milken Educator Awards Website:
Ohio Department of Education website:
North Royalton City Schools website:
Milken Family Foundation Website: 
Follow the Awards on TwitterYouTube and Facebook.

For more information, visit our Media Kit page.

Education reform leader Lowell Milken created the Milken Educator Awards to recognize exemplary teachers and established the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) to generate more talented teachers, NIET operates TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement and the Best Practices Center. Lowell Milken recently provided the founding gift for the UCLA School of Law’s Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy. For more information about Lowell visit