Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

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Milken Educators: Where Are They Now? (Part 2)

November 2, 2015

Dr. Maggie Knutson (MN ’04)

Maggie Knutson volunteering in classroom in Costa Rica

Photo: Maggie Knutson poses with a 5th grade classroom in Villa Real, when she spent time volunteering in Costa Rica in 2014.


Dr. Maggie Knutson won the Milken Educator Award in 2004 for the profound impact she had as a teacher at Orono Intermediate School in Long Lake, MN. She also contributed her expertise as a consultant with the Minnesota Department of Education in various capacities and not long after receiving the award, Knutson accepted an appointment by the governor to the Minnesota State Board of Education. In the following years she finished her doctorate in curriculum and instruction and became the founding director of the country’s first girl-focused charter school, Laura Jeffrey Academy, in St. Paul, MN. The school’s motto was “to over-serve the under-served” and Knutson actively recruited students by holding informational sessions at community centers in Section 8 housing, and at Hmong and Somali markets.   


Knutson is currently the Learning Architect for a small education technology start up, MindBlown Labs, in Oakland, California. The company creates highly interactive, experiential learning tools and curriculum that teach financial capability to young people (grades 9-12). Part of the overarching goal is to help youth understand how to make smart financial decisions for their future. Knutson provides the educational expertise and support to help make the game and curriculum as  powerful and engaging as possible.

In her own words: 

“When I received the award in 2004, I remember my dad’s response: ‘Great! Now you can reach farther.’ I wanted a pat on the back from him yet his response was: reach higher, and that’s exactly the effect the award has had. 

“This award itself has been both a validation of great work and a push to do more. Our field does not have explicit pathways of career advancement, and oftentimes, classroom teachers don’t feel inclined to step out of their comfort zones of the classroom. Receiving the Milken Educator Award helped clear the path for leadership opportunities outside of my school district. 

“I remember the reception for Milken Award recipients (it was in Washington DC that year). The feeling was incredible. As a teacher, I’m often in rooms filled with teachers, but this was different. I felt as though I had found ‘my people.’ I was surrounded by teachers who were not only passionate and hard working (so many teachers are) – this group was also innovative and risk-taking. We were all dissatisfied with the educational status quo and at the same time really positive, hopeful and solution oriented. That experience, and continuing to be a part of the Milken Family network, has helped me define myself as an educational leader and inspired me to take educational career paths less traveled. I’m forever grateful.”

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