Fun Facts

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Pioneer Award Recipients Were Like, "Say What?"

When the first-year Awards were given, California Superintendent Bill Honig delivered the news to Award recipients by phone, and guess what? Teachers, understandably, didn’t believe him and questioned his authenticity! Ultimately, the actual $25,000 check eliminated their skepticism.

You can Take the Teacher out of the Classroom but not the “Teach” out of the Teacher

MEA logo 2017Shirley Rosenkranz (CA ’87) was an English teacher at Southern California’s Temple City High School when she won the Award. Shirley saved nearly all of her Award money for some “big dream” – to build a library in her backyard! The separate little building, complete with card catalog, is a venue for education where she gives extra help to local students by reading a book together or talking about stories. 

Veteran Milken Educator from '87 Still in the Classroom

Elaine Rosenfield's husband will laugh if you ask him whether she's retired from teaching. Although the third-grade teacher from C.L. Smith Elementary School in San Luis Obispo, California, officially retired from teaching several years ago, she spends three days a week volunteering in the classroom. The math specialist has a masters degree in special education and reading. Her advice to parents: don't ever tell your children they're not good at math. Just tell them they have to work harder!

Teacher Uses Award Money to Take 30 Students to Space Camp

When Lisette Clemons (IL '89) received the Milken Educator Award, she immediately thought of her students. In December 1989, she used the entire amount to take 30 students from St. Augustine of Canterbury School in Belleville, Illinois to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, so they could attend Space Camp. Two of them have Ph.D.s in science because of that experience and tracked down their former teacher to tell her. 

Lowell Hits the Road in 1994

Fast-forward to 1994, when the Milken Educator Awards hit the road to personally inform recipients. The first visit took place when Lowell Milken visited Robert Bruesch’s 6th grade classroom at Frances E. Willard Elementary School in Rosemead, California.

OMG—We're on Oprah!

Catherine Schaller (IL '96), a teacher at Beethoven Elementary School in Chicago, received the news of her Award along with Oprah’s televised live audience back in 1996. She was the 1,000th recipient.

Teacher Faces the TV Evening News – in Her Pajamas

It was Pajama Day at West Bloomfield High School in West Bloomfield, Michigan when teacher Kendra Hearn was awarded the Milken Educator Award in 1999. It made for an interesting sight when the teacher, now called Dr. Hearn as a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan, made the evening news wearing her jammies. 

Three Lucky Students Become Mini Milkens

Dr. Marsha Carr-Lambert (MD ’94) was a reading specialist at South Penn Elementary School in Cumberland when she was honored. “The $25,000 was a statement—a statement about the significance of education and those who give up financial security for service to society.” She created a college fund for three students at her school, and gave each a $500 savings bonds, which matured into $1,000. Long after their graduation, they still remain in touch!

Like Award-Winning Father, Like Award-Winning Daughter

Charles Mingo (IL ’93) and Nathalie Mingo (IL ’04) are a father-daughter teaching duo who won the Award. The elder Mingo was “re-surprised” at home when he was informed his daughter would be joining the Milken Educator Award family. Charles put on his tuxedo and was proudly hiding in the wings in anticipation when Nathalie, a first-grade teacher, was recognized at Willow Elementary School in Homewood, Illinois.

An Unlucky Week Becomes a Lucky One

Science teacher Karen LaFever was having an unlucky week. Both her car and her husband’s car had died on them, and her husband was facing the prospect of going back to work part-time rather than staying home to take care of their three young children. Her luck turned on October 15, 2003, when the Parkway Middle School teacher from Chesterfield, Missouri, attended an assembly at her school. Little did she know she would leave the assembly a Milken Educator and $25,000 richer. Getting rewarded for being an exceptional teacher could not have come at a better time! 

The Milken Brain Trust

The Milken Educator Network, a 2,700-strong collective of educators gifted with vast experience, talent and skills, enables recipients to learn from and form friendships with each other. Thomas Dennison (MD ’16) invited Jayda Pugliese (PA ’16) to give the keynote address at his fifth-graders’ graduation, while Michelle Ryan (MA ’15) advised Katie Baker (TN ’16) and Dr. Tiffany Tynes Curry (OH ’16) on public speaking and professional presentations. Dr. Hector Ibarra (IA ’93) takes many Educators under his wing and helped form a mentor group for new recipients.

Two Big Surprises in One Day

As one of seven being raised by a widowed mother in a Chicago housing project, Robin Turner never forgot her caring principal. He believed in her, told her she was smart and would one day attend college. Flash forward to 2006, and Robin is a teacher at Mary Jane Sims Elementary School in Austin, Texas. She has just won the Milken Educator Award. Donald Moran (IL ’92) steps forward to congratulate her and she recognizes him as the childhood principal who helped inspire her. “Do you remember me?” she asked. He did and they gave each other a tearful hug. 

Spreading the Milken Love

Sierra Nevada College President Robert Maxson told Milken Educator Dr. Carrie Buck (NV '08) that the college would extend a full scholarship to a teacher of her choosing at C.T. Sewell Elementary to earn a master’s in education. She chose Kirstin Stokes, a teacher at the school. Stokes is now an instructional coach/literacy specialist for the Clark County School District in Nevada.

Milken Educator Paves the Way for Another Milken Educator

Yvonne J. Dean Griffin (CT ’99) saw something special in Tamika Knight (CT ’12), a former student. “She encouraged me to be a teacher,” said Knight. “I knew I wanted to work with people. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.” Griffin recommended that her protégée join the Future Educators Society, which allowed Knight to go to different schools and read to students. She’s now a teacher at Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School. “Ms. Griffin really cared about the kids she was working with and I just took the same philosophy into my own classroom,” Knight said.

Pay it Forward

You never forget your favorite teacher, especially if you’re Desi Nesmith (CT ’14), chief school turnaround officer for Connecticut’s Department of Education. He donated 10% of his Award money to Bloomfield High School to fund a scholarship for seniors interested in becoming educators. What did he call it?  The Anne Stone Dowdy Scholarship, in honor of his first grade teacher who “laid the foundation that gave me a love of learning. I still remember things she taught us.”