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Dr. Dilhani Uswatte (AL '09)

Chief Academic Officer

Birmingham, AL

At the time of the Award, Dr. Dilhani Uswatte was:

Berry Middle School
Birmingham, AL

Subject(s) taught: Mathematics
Grade(s): 8

Biographical Information

Dilhani Uswatte always believed teaching was her calling. After her Milken Award, Uswatte realized she was also destined to be a leader in education. Previous recipients told her it would open doors — and it did.

The summer after her Award, Uswatte became the assistant principal at Rocky Ridge Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama, challenged by the administration to get students excited about math and improve performance. By the end of her first year, Uswatte and her team had increased math performance by an average of 15% in each grade, and all grades were at 90% proficiency or higher. Uswatte’s Milken Award earned her the credibility she needed with her teachers to engage them in the year-long effort to make those improvements. Four years later, Uswatte was selected to lead the school as principal.

Since receiving the Milken Award, Uswatte has taken on leadership opportunities at both the district and state level. She has served as a judge for Jacksonville’s and the state of Alabama’s Teacher of the Year awards. A frequent presenter on math education and teacher leadership, she has spoken at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Samford University, the Teacher Hall of Fame Award Banquet, and Hoover New Teacher Institute. In 2016 she was chosen to be a TedX educator fellow, bringing her together with educators across the Birmingham area.

Uswatte serves as a council member of ACLD, the state committee that approves professional learning courses across Alabama. She is also an advising member of the state committee tasked with reworking the teacher formative assessment program called Educate Alabama. Uswatte has been the President, Vice-President and is currently the secretary for the District IV Alabama Elementary Principals Association. She is currently a director for Alabama Association for Elementary School Principals and is a board member on the CLAS (Council for Leaders of Alabama Schools.)

Uswatte spearheads the Alabama Milken Mentors program, which brings Milken Educators from around the state together for collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

When Uswatte won the Milken Award as an 8th-grade math teacher and chair of the math department at Berry Middle School in Birmingham, she was known for her compassion and dedication. After a tsunami struck her native Sri Lanka, she engaged the entire school in a fundraising effort to rebuild a Sri Lankan school that had been destroyed. She started Girls Engaged in Math and Science (GEMS) and created a free tutoring service and helpline for current and former students who needed help with math.

In Februrary 2020, she was named National Distinguished Principal by the National Association for Elementary School Principals.

Related Connections

Milestone: Dr. Dilhani Uswatte (AL '09) Joins NAGB

Article: COVID-19 Diaries: Leading in a Time of Uncertainty

Article: COVID-19 Diaries: Good Morning, Rocky Ridge!

Milestone: Dr. Dilhani Uswatte (AL '09) Named Principal of the Year

Milestone: School Led by Dilhani Uswatte (AL '09) Wins $20K National Grant

Educator Quote:

“I have officially earned the title of ‘Dr. Dil’ and..." (read more)

Dr. Dilhani Uswatte In The News

Principal's View: How Alabama Is Leading the Way in Solving the Math Crisis
The 74  |  Mar 02, 2023  |  New York, NY

U.S. Education Secretary Appoints Alabama Principal To Board Overseeing The Nation's Report Card
National Assessment Governing Board  |  Nov 10, 2022  |  Washington, DC

LISTEN --> #84: Alabama Elementary Principal of the Year Dil Uswatte
The Group Project Podcast  |  Sep 18, 2021  |  Tama, IA

LISTEN --> How the Power of a Penny Can Teach Our Kids and Ourselves About Positive Inspiration and Leadership
Donothing  |  Aug 18, 2020  |  Oak Park, MI

Metro Roundup: Rocky Ridge Principal named 2020 National Distinguished Principal for Alabama
Vestavia Voice  |  Apr 01, 2020  |  Homewood, AL

Rocky Ridge Elementary Principal Surprised with Principal of the Year Award
WBRC-TV  |  FOX  |  Feb 28, 2020  |  Birmingham, AL

Additional Information


1996 Queens University, B.S.

STEM/STEAM leadership, Culture and Climate development, Mentoring, and Student Motivation