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Fashion Forward: Fraser Teacher Stacie Yokhana Shapes Bright Futures for Students, Takes Home a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Yokhana's CTE courses boost marketable skills and student confidence at Fraser High School

Oprah Winfrey congratulates Milken Educators in heartwarming video message as 'light in this world'

April 21, 2022

Santa Monica, Calif., — The path beyond graduation is far less uncertain for Fraser High School students under the skillful guidance of career and technical (CTE) teacher Stacie Yokhana. The Michigan educator prepares her students to thrive in the working world, arming them with competitive and coveted skills that translate directly to careers in fashion and manufacturing. Today at a surprise ceremony, Yokhana was recognized with a national Milken Educator Award in front of appreciative colleagues, students, education officials and media. 

Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Michael F. Rice joined Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher to present Yokhana with the prestigious recognition, which includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. In addition to today’s festivities, Yokhana will join a national network of more than 2,800 Milken Educators and K-12 education leaders across the U.S. 

"As participants of an exciting, on-the-ground partnership with GM, Stacie Yokhana's students are, literally, going places," said Gallagher. "Stacie's introduction of industry sewing into the CTE program combines creativity with tangible skills students will be able to apply immediately after graduation. Virtually every successful person can name a teacher who helped put them on a path to a fulfilling future. There is no doubt that Stacie’s students will think fondly of their experience as they set out to make meaningful contributions to Michigan's economy." 

"Stacie Yokhana is a pioneering educator who exemplifies what is best about Michigan public schools," said Dr. Rice. "She helps prepare students with the technical talents and skills to go straight from high school into manufacturing and fashion design careers. Finding new ways to offer students hands-on skills and committing to connections with the business and fashion worlds show what an extraordinary educator she is. Ms. Yokhana is a proud Michigan educator who represents how a fulfilling career in teaching can improve the lives of young people and have a positive impact on our world." 

Yokhana is among more than 60 educators nationwide who will receive the Award during the 2021-22 school year and the second recipient from Michigan. Jenna O'Driscoll, principal at Merrill Park Elementary School in Saginaw, earned the Award this morning. Yokhana is the first recipient from Fraser Public Schools since 1990. 

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The Awards are not designated for lifetime achievement. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award. 

Oprah, a longtime education advocate, offered her congratulations to this year's recipients in a video message thanking "the most incredible educators around the country" and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the "tireless work" they do.

More About Stacie Yokhana

Industrial Sewing Coursework: Stacie Yokhana's students leave her classroom with marketable skills coveted by local manufacturing companies. Yokhana heads the Fashion Design department in Frasier High School's Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, where she pioneered the inclusion of industrial sewing. Industrial sewing is a specific skill set that is crucial not just to Michigan's auto industry, but also to boat and recreational vehicle makers in the area. 

Industry Partnership: Yokhana partnered with General Motors (GM), one of the region's biggest employers, which helped Fraser High outfit her classroom with industrial sewing machines and provided technical training. She spent several weeks working in GM's industrial sewing shop to become comfortable with the machines and understand the intricate stitching methods. Yokhana's students visit GM's Tech Center as they learn to pull together color boards and design head rests for GM vehicles. Southeast Michigan schools have worked with the auto industry, but industrial sewing is an opportunity many students were unaware of before Yokhana's courses. Her classes are always full, with enrollment growing every year. Students are committed and completion rates are high. GM partners comment how impressed they are with Yokhana's students, noting that they graduate with similar skills as the company’s on-site adult trainees. 

Fashion Forward: Yokhana organizes fashion field trips to New York City and coordinates an annual prom fashion show that includes more than 40 student designers and models. For the Regional Fashion Design Advisory Committee, Yokhana organizes meetings of industry and post-secondary partners to ensure students are learning current and relevant skills. 

School Leadership: Yokhana advises the school's National Technical Honor Society and supervises the SkillsUSA fashion, future teacher, and FCS (Family and Consumer Sciences) student organizations. 

Student Support:  With a decade of experience in online teaching, Yokhana helped lead Fraser through the challenges of pandemic-related school changes, supporting both students and colleagues as they reengineered instruction for social distancing and virtual learning. When a student's house burned down, Yokhana worked with industry and community partners to collect clothing, food and other necessities for the family. Last year's graduating class nominated her to give their Senior Speech, a traditional Fraser honor.

Education: Yokhana earned a bachelor's in secondary education in 2006 from Western Michigan University and a master's in teaching reading and language arts in 2009 from Oakland University. In 2013, she received a certificate in online teaching and learning from Endicott College.

More About the Milken Educator Awards: "The future belongs to the educated."

Along with the financial prize, Milken Educator Award recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.

  • In June, the honorees will attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFFs) mentoring program, in which freshman Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice.
  • Over the years, more than $140 million in funding, including $70 million for the individual cash awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers. 
  • Veteran Milken Educators frequently go on to serve in leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 
  • "We find you. You don't find us!" Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation. 
  • The $25,000 cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.  

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward).

For more information, visit or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The 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. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at

Press Contact:

Jana Rausch
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