Fact Sheet

About the Initiative

  • MEA logo 2017The Milken Family Foundation (MFF), headquartered in Santa Monica, California, presented the first Milken Educator Awards in 1987, more than three decades ago.
  • The initiative provides public recognition and unrestricted financial awards of $25,000 to outstanding K–12 teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.
  • The Milken Educator Awards, coined the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine, alternates yearly between elementary and secondary educators. For 2019-20, the Awards will focus on secondary educators.
  • MFF has directed more than $140 million to the initiative, including awards and professional development opportunities.
  • $70 million has specifically gone to individual financial prizes to more than 2,800 of America’s top educators.
  • Recipients are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.
  • Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. 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.
  • Surprise notifications take place during schoolwide assemblies filled with students, colleagues, education officials, community leaders and media.
  • Recipients join the Milken Educator Network, a group of distinguished educators fostering effective leadership and education reform. The Milken Educator Awards’ “Why Not Us” program will pair each 2019 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy.
  • 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.

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 and national levels. New recipients join the Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 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.

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

Research has proven beyond doubt 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 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:

  • Bonnie Somers, senior vice president of communications, bsomers@mff.org, office (310) 570-4770; cell (818) 307-3111

For general inquiries:

Milken Family Foundation, 1250 Fourth Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401-1353, phone: (310) 570-4781, email: wwilson@mff.org

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