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Bright 'Horizons' Abound: Phoenix Elementary School Teacher Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award
Ashley Meyer's foundational instruction, leadership and infectious growth mindset at Horizon Honors Elementary earn her national recognition
December 07, 2023
Santa Monica, Calif. — Thunderous cheers echoed throughout the halls of Horizon Honors Elementary School today as first and second grade mentor teacher Ashley Meyer brought home a historic honor of her own: a Milken Educator Award. Meyer's leadership both inside and outside of the classroom has caught nationwide attention, sending her home with not only the first-ever Milken Educator Award in Horizon Honors Schools — but also with a $25,000 cash prize she can use however she chooses.
Meyer's day, along with the rest of the Horizon Honors community, began just like any other. Yet a routine K-6 morning meeting quickly turned into the surprise of a lifetime when Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction, introduced a special guest representing the Milken Family Foundation: National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) Chief Executive Officer Dr. Joshua Barnett. Together, Dr. Barnett and Horne presented Meyer with the prestigious honor in front of excited students, colleagues, dignitaries and media.
"Preparing students early sets them up for success, and Ashley Meyer is making an indelible impact on young lives right here at Horizon Honors Elementary," said Dr. Barnett. "What's more, Ashley has taken her commitment to new heights as a mentor teacher, advancing excellence across the school while expanding her own skills and those of other educators. The Milken Educator Network will provide powerful opportunities to achieve even greater accomplishments in the future. Congratulations, Ashley."
Meyer was completely unaware of her candidacy. Bestowed by the Milken Family Foundation, the Award recognizes outstanding K-12 educators for their excellence and leadership in the profession. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the Award.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne stated, "Ashley Meyer understands both the individuality of each student as well as the importance of their ability to function as part of a group. The Department of Education salutes Ashley for her commitment to ensuring that every student has the inspiration, encouragement and support needed to succeed in school and in life."
Meyer is among up to 75 recipients across the country who will be honored as part of the Milken Family Foundation's historic, nationwide tour reaching the presentation of the 3,000th Milken Educator in 2024. Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," 2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to "Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate" the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career.
More About Ashley Meyer
Emphasizing the 'Why' and Getting Results: At Horizon Honors Elementary School, first and second grade students spend two years exploring the ins and outs of learning and life from mentor teacher Ashley Meyer. Playing a vital role in students' early educational development, she maximizes her time with everyone, working with her classroom collaborative team to strengthen foundational skills across the curriculum. Utilizing small groups to provide differentiated instruction, Meyer's interactive lessons help students master the material and its relevance to everyday life. She is often implementing ideas for hands-on projects during "Project Group," a time dedicated for students to demonstrate comprehension of the day's studies. Meyer also helps to guide students through "Summative," a quarterly opportunity for students to present the standards they have learned and resulting outcomes of their learning to family members. Her data-driven and evidence-based instructional practices have reaped consistent student achievement and growth, with her students outperforming the district in benchmark assessments.
Celebrating Professional Leadership and Collaboration: A collaborative educator at heart, Meyer's classroom door is always open for observations and feedback from colleagues. Her professionalism and positivity contribute to the culture at Horizon Honors Elementary, as colleagues turn to Meyer for ideas and input on topics such as classroom management and parent communication. Advancing teacher leadership, support and team-building is a hallmark of the school’s partnership with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. This year, Meyer increased her roles and responsibilities as a mentor teacher. In this role, she is an integral part of the school's instructional leadership team, lending her knowledge to schoolwide professional development, curriculum development and coaching.
Accommodating Individual Needs: Meyer's advocacy for student accessibility and success inspires students and colleagues alike. She works closely with parents to set goals for their students, then creates individualized learning plans, ensuring all learners are prepared to excel at high levels. Having completed state dyslexia training, Meyer is attuned to monitoring her classroom for additional supports, such as reading needs, alternative learning opportunities or behavioral accommodations. Outside of the classroom, Meyer sponsors a "Spirit Squad" club after school for first through fourth grade students.
Education: Meyer earned a bachelor's in elementary education from Illinois State University in 2016 and a master's in reading and literacy from Grand Canyon University in 2019.
More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: "The Future Belongs to the Educated"
- The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in June 2024, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.
- Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.
- Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
- The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.
Follow the Milken Educator Awards tour and use the #MEA3K and #MilkenAward hashtags on: Facebook (MilkenEducatorAwards) | X (Milken) | YouTube (MilkenAward) | Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn) | LinkedIn (MilkenFamilyFdn) | TikTok (MilkenAward).
Visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772 for more information.
About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Created by Lowell Milken, the Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. The Milken Family Foundation celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at MFF.org.