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Dr. Dilhani Uswatte

Dr. Dilhani Uswatte (AL '09)


Rocky Ridge Elementary School
Hoover, AL

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

Berry Middle School
Birmingham, AL

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 is the vice president and president elect for the District IV Alabama Elementary Principals Association.

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.

Related Connections

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

Educator Quote:

“I have officially earned the title of ‘Dr. Dil’ and acknowledged the Milken Family in my dissertation.  Earning the Milken Award..." (read more)

Additional Information


1996 Queens University, B.S.