Press Releases    All Press Releases


Elevating Student Video Skills Produces a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Teacher Katie McQuone

Teacher's video production class lifts student voices and prospects at Sunnyside High in Fresno, CA

December 10, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif.,  Katie McQuone's students are making the transition from the classroom to "on the air, in 3, 2, 1!" Some students in McQuone's video production class at Sunnyside High in Fresno, CA, have been hired by TV stations right out of her class. Helping young people find their voices as they hone their video chops and take control of the narratives they see around them, McQuone is preparing students for brighter futures in media and social media, while teaching them analytical and organizational skills that can help them throughout life. Students also gain appreciation of their community, documenting grade school plays, covering local sporting events, producing local news and highlighting area attractions. Their efforts air daily at school and sometimes on local TV stations. McQuone's students' work has won many awards and also earned them college credit, serving as a resume builder on their paths to academic and vocational success.

But it was McQuone winning an unanticipated award this morning at a surprise school assembly where she was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley and Cindy Quiralte, Policy Advisor to California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond. As a 2019-20 recipient of the national recognition, McQuone receives an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

A former Sunnyside video production student herself, McQuone brings it full circle for her students by passing along concrete skills, overarching concepts and practical life experience that will serve them in good stead on the job or in higher education. A favorite of students, families and faculty colleagues, McQuone is a staff mentor who leads professional teacher development in the region and also takes her teaching skills to the next level as video instructor at nearby Fresno City College. 

"A talented teacher like Katie McQuone understands the value of hands-on, project-based learning as an excellent way to reach students and impart something of lasting value," said Foley. "Katie is a practical visionary who inspires and uplifts while also teaching down-to-earth skills that translate to both academia and the working world." 

"The impact of a great teacher like Katie McQuone is life changing not only for students, but for their families and communities," said Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. "California depends on talented educators like Katie who challenge and prepare young people to become productive, positive members of society."

"Katie McQuone is a super star in our District," said Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Bob Nelson. "She gives selflessly to better Sunnyside High School and provide amazing opportunities for our students. We're thrilled that her hard work and dedication is being recognized nationally through the Milken Family Foundation and we can't wait to see what's next for Katie and her students!"

About Milken Educator Katie McQuone

Katie McQuone has helped students at Sunnyside High School in Fresno find their voices—and share them with the community. McQuone leads the school's Video Production Academy (VPA), in which nearly 100 students learn digital and social media skills. Through project-based and interdisciplinary instructional approaches, students produce daily video news stories for the school's broadcast. McQuone understands the value of bringing businesses into her classroom and sending students out into the community. They record theater performances at local elementary schools, shoot video for the city's minor league baseball team, and work with Fresno’s zoo, city bus office and community college. Student-produced stories are featured at the Community Media Center for Fresno and Clovis and air on local network affiliate and public broadcasting TV stations. 

McQuone makes sure her students' work is recognized. All students submit videos to competitions like Picture of the Valley, Slick Rock and the National Student Production Awards, also known as the "high school Emmys." Many of McQuone's student productions have won county and regional awards, including a regional Emmy for a documentary one student produced about her parents' lives as migrant farm workers. For their Unsung Heroes Living History Project, VPA students collected and published oral histories from military veterans. All of McQuone's students graduate with work-based learning experiences, dual enrollment college credits and often certifications in programs like Adobe Photoshop. Many go on to study communications and media in college, and several have been hired right out of her classes by television stations and networks. 

A graduate not only of Sunnyside High but also of the same California Partnership Academies program in which she now teaches, McQuone is a leader in the school where her former teachers are now her colleagues. She sits on the arts and CTE committees, coaches the varsity swim team, and heads the school's staff and alumni associations, organizing fundraising and appreciation events many times each year. McQuone leads professional development for teachers throughout the region and teaches evening video production classes as an adjunct instructor at Fresno City College. Students collect in McQuone's classroom before school, at lunch and after the school day ends. In a large school where many students lack stability at home, McQuone's classroom is a sanctuary. 

McQuone earned a bachelor's degree in radio, television and electronic media in 2009 from San Francisco State University. 

More information about McQuone, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, the honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals, and specialists dedicated to strengthening education. 

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2019-20 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, 2020 where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, the Milken Educator Awards' "Why Not Us" program will pair each 2019-20 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. 

More than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.

The cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways; for instance, on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even on the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Everyone is encouraged to watch the tour at,, and

For more information, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards

The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. 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.

Lynne Russo 
(818) 903-6079 cell;