Fact Sheet

  • The Milken Family Foundation (MFF), headquartered in Santa Monica, California, presented the first Milken Educator Award in 1987 to celebrate, elevate and activate the K-12 teaching profession.  
  • Created by Lowell Milken, the Milken Educator Awards is the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition initiative, providing public acknowledgement and unrestricted financial awards of $25,000 to outstanding K–12 teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients join the Milken Educator Network, a cadre of distinguished educators advancing leadership and innovation at the state, national – and even international levels.   
  • 2023-24 marks the Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. Up to 75 recipients will be honored coast-to-coast, reaching the 3,000th member of the Milken Educator Network.
  • 2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall. 
  • Educators cannot apply and are unaware of their candidacy. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation. 
  • Recipients are surprised with the news of their Award at all-school assemblies before cheering students, colleagues, education officials, community leaders and media. 
  • Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.
  • Our motto is “The future belongs to the educated.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the criteria for selection?

  • 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. 

How are the Milken Awards announced?

The main element is surprise! Each year, new recipients are taken completely by surprise at schoolwide assemblies. With an entourage of media and distinguished officials, an MFF representative along with the state chief of education typically notifies the recipient, often accompanied by the governor and other state and federal leaders. 

Are the recipients required to do anything specific with their monetary awards?

Milken Educators may use their unrestricted $25,000 cash Awards however they wish. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.  

Are there other benefits associated with the Award?

The initiative provides powerful professional development opportunities, such as networking with leading education stakeholders, for Milken Educators to impact education at local, state, national and even international levels. New recipients join the Milken Educator Network, a group of nearly 3,000 distinguished educators and leaders from across the country, whose expertise and mentorship serve as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others shaping the future of education. Recipients also receive powerful mentoring to prepare for future leadership opportunities. 

Why does the initiative put such an emphasis on educator effectiveness?

Research demonstrates that the single most important in-school factor affecting student achievement is the quality of the educator in the classroom.  

What are the goals of the Milken Educator Awards?

Recognizing and rewarding excellent educators has been a hallmark of the Milken Educator Awards. Due to the lack of opportunities for educators to thrive, more classroom teachers are leaving the profession and fewer young people are pursuing careers in teaching. The Milken Educator Awards initiative aims to reverse this trend by focusing public attention on the need for able, caring and creative people to join the teaching profession in order to improve achievement for all students.  

What are other areas of interest for the Milken Family Foundation?

The Milken Family Foundation was established by Michael and Lowell Milken in 1982 with the mission to discover and advance inventive and effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives. The means most conducive to achieving these goals is through education. In addition to the Milken Educator Awards, affiliated initiatives include the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching and the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes, among many.

What is the best way to contact the Milken Educator Awards program?

For media inquiries:

  • Jana Rausch, Vice President of Communications, jrausch@mff.org, office (310) 570-4774, cell (310) 435-9259

For general inquiries:

Milken Family Foundation, 1250 Fourth Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401-1353, phone: (310) 570-4785

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