Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

The Milken Awards Take Over TikTok

July 13, 2022

Wachter Erica Quale reaction 3 1000w

The world of social media changes quickly, and the Milken Educator Awards team keeps a close eye on what's trending and where people are spending their time. This year we jumped into TikTok, sensing that recipients' emotional reactions at their surprise Milken Award notifications would resonate with TikTok users. And did they ever! In five months' time, our TikTok channel has garnered nearly 5 million views and 3,000 comments from around the world.

Milken Award's TikTok videos reached many people who had never heard of the Awards before but were captivated by our teachers-as-celebrities assemblies. "Literally sobbing. Love this so much!" wrote one viewer. "All these Milken Awards are making me cry such happy tears!" said another. We also reached students, colleagues and others in recipients' communities. "She was my son's teacher! Very much deserved!" commented a viewer in Arkansas on a TikTok featuring Kamisha Burlingame (AR '21). And we saw a common refrain from excited younger users: "THAT'S MY TEACHER!"

Here's a look at some of our standout TikToks of the 2021-22 season.

Middle school social studies teacher Erica Quale (ND '21) dropped to her knees when we called her name at Wachter Middle School in Bismarck—and TikTok adored it. Erica's video went viral, with over 700,000 views in just a few days, and caught the attention of feel-good social news aggregator Good News Movement, which shared the video on Instagram Reels with another 3.3 million viewers. Eventually, Erica's video was featured as part of "Hoda's Morning Boost" on NBC's TODAY Show!

@milkenaward Erica Quale got the surprise of a lifetime this morning! The #MilkenAward is a national recognition to honor and celebrate outstanding teachers. Listen to those cheers from her #students and colleagues at #WachterMiddleSchool Congratulations, Erica! #TeachersOfTikTok #Bismarck #NorthDakota #NorthDakotaTeacher #Surprise #Education #fyp #fypシ #foryou Emotional Piano Instrumental In E Minor - Tom Bailey Backing Tracks

When Lowell Milken surprised math teacher Jay Weisman (LA '21) at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, Jay's nonstop smile and the thunderous applause from his students hit the jackpot with nearly 100,000 TikTok viewers. "THAT'S MY MATH TEACHER!" commented one. Said another: "I've watched almost all of these and am crying! This is better than any award show on TV!" This comment brought us to tears: "I wish I could like these videos a million times each. Thank you for changing teachers' lives!"

@milkenaward Benjamin Franklin High School students cheered like crazy for their teacher, Jay Weisman today! Our newest #MilkenAward recipient #teachersoftiktok #teacher #inspiration #fyp #louisiana #neworleans Take Yours - Matthew Mole

Right after many notifications end, we listen in as Milken Award recipients call their loved ones to share the good news. These touching moments are perfect for TikTok and reached millions of viewers! Whether it was Principal Aubrey Flowers (OK '21) telling her husband that "you're on speakerphone with a lot of people," or science teacher Tyler Finch (NM '21) being brought to tears when his mom said "Daddy would be so proud of you," or eighth grade science teacher Tamarah Danzy (OK '21) calling her dad "my inspiration to become a teacher," our recipients' emotional conversations with family members tugged at TikTok users' heartstrings.

@milkenaward “There MIGHT be some money involved…” Listen in on Principal Aubrey Flowers’ call to her husband to share the big news. She just won a $25K #MilkenAward for her dedication to #CouncilOakElementary students in #Tulsa, OK. #teachersoftiktok #goodnews #oklahomaeducation #oklahomateachers #tulsaok #weloveteachers #elementaryschool #bigsurprise #fyp #wholesome _Cute - Gabe Lost
@milkenaward “Daddy would be so proud of you.” Tyler Finch’s mom reacts to her son’s surprise $25,000 #MilkenAward.#teachersoftiktok #family #wholesomemoment #proudparent #newmexicoteacher #lovinghighschool #positive #emotional #wholesome Sunrise - White Cherry
@milkenaward “You were my inspiration to become a teacher.” Have some tears left? Because Tamarah Danzy’s call to tell her mom and dad about today’s $25K #MilkenAward surprise certainly has us crying. Those are some proud #parents! #teachers #teachersoftiktok #family #education #edutok #heartwarming #oklahoma #u8gc #unionpublicschools #oklaed #oklahomaeducation #weloveteachers #fyp Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

It wouldn't be TikTok without dancing! When band teacher Grant Harbison (AR '21) made it up to the stage at The Academies at Jonesboro High School to accept his Milken Award, he didn't realize he was about to create a "made for TikTok" moment—but Grant's dancing feet were a huge hit with viewers (watch to the end of the video to see Grant's exuberant explosion of excitement). "My son played in his bands for the last three years," commented one viewer. "He's incredibly deserving of this award!"

@milkenaward What a celebration! Hometown hero and incredible @JPS District band director Grant Harbison wins a $25K #MilkenAward in Jonesboro, Arkansas! #CaneBand #CaneOTR #TeachArkansas #Jonesboro #JonesboroAR #ArkansasTeacher #BandDirector #HighSchoolBand #AllState #MusicTeacher #Music #MarchingBand #ArtsEducation #goodnews #positive #happydance #fyp #Arkansas VICTORY - Steven Cooper

Want to see more? Follow us on TikTok as we spend the summer reliving highlights of past seasons and get ready for more Milken Award surprises in the fall!


Don’t miss any new articles and updates from Milken Educator Awards:   Subscribe Now