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Garden City Principal Recognized as One of Nation's Best with Surprise $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Future Public School Principal Heather Efaw honored during nationwide tour for commitment to furthering the profession through innovation and excellence

February 22, 2024

Garden City, Idaho A Garden City principal received the surprise of a lifetime today when she was presented with the Milken Educator Award, a prestigious national honor recognizing exceptional educators for outstanding dedication to excellence in education. At a schoolwide assembly in front of cheering students, colleagues, dignitaries and the media, Heather Efaw (pronounced “EE-faw”) received the honor from Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop, who was joined by Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield. Bestowed by the Milken Family Foundation, the Award includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize that recipients may use however they choose. Efaw is the second and final Milken Educator awarded from Idaho this 2023-24 season, joining Kelly Sheridan of Idaho Falls who was surprised yesterday, February 21.     

"Heather Efaw is a beacon of excellence in education, and today, we honor her for her unwavering commitment to students and colleagues at Future Public School," said Bishop, a 2001 Virginia Milken Educator herself. "Heather's powerful leadership, commitment to the academic and personal growth of every student, and dedication to the community are just some of the ways she personifies a Milken Educator. We celebrate and welcome you to our national Milken Educator Network, Heather. Congratulations!"   

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," the Awards will honor up to 75 recipients across the country in 2023-24 as part of the Milken Family Foundation's Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. 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.    

"As a principal, Heather Efaw demonstrates abilities that all excellent leaders have – that ability to not only see potential and opportunities, but to then work to create an environment where that potential can grow and where those opportunities can be turned into successes," said Superintendent Critchfield. "Not only is this excellence evident in the culture of trust and collaboration that Heather has clearly fostered in her school, it shows in the numbers. That her student body exceeds state averages in not only literacy, but also in math, is a demonstration of the achievement levels that are possible when a leader creates an environment where their teachers can teach to the best of their ability and their students can learn to the best of theirs." 

More About Heather Efaw  

Evidence of Positive Impact: Heather Efaw is committed to high standards and fostering a joyful school atmosphere at Future Public School, a charter school where she serves as principal to students from kindergarten through sixth grade. Efaw began her Future Public School career as a literacy coach before assuming roles as assistant principal and now principal. As an education leader in her school and community, she advocates for every student, empowering learners to soar to their fullest potential both academically and socially.

Future Public School has seen significant academic growth under the guidance of Efaw and her teaching and learning team, having exceeded state performance on the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI), the ISAT literacy assessment, and in math, according to 2022-23 results. These achievements are driven by strong fidelity to the effective implementation of curricular resources, data review and analysis, classroom coaching, and content-specific professional development. Efaw has built trusted relationships with her faculty and leveraged staff members’ talents to implement instructional best practices, leading to high teacher satisfaction and retention.

Innovative Leadership: As a complement to the school's rigorous academic program, Efaw has adeptly led the management of summer camps and tutoring programs. A proactive and continuous learner, Efaw actively participates in the Noble School Leader Fellowship, a one-year, cohort-based principal exposure and professional development program.

Community Involvement: Efaw's commitment to leadership extends into the community. She actively engages with the Garden City Early Learning Collaborative, a local organization working to enhance affordable, high-quality learning opportunities for children and families through the expansion of resources and community engagement. Efaw has collaborated with Cultivating Readers for Leaders, a state-run program, and has presented at Federal Programs conferences. Her involvement with Girls on the Run, an organization inspiring empowerment through building confidence, kindness and decision-making skills, underscores her dedication to community enrichment. Efaw also serves as an advisory board member for a local preschool, the Idaho Way Collaborative, and is a mentor with Teach for America Idaho, providing regular professional development and coaching for early-career teachers aspiring to become mentors themselves. 

Education: Efaw earned her Bachelor of Arts in political science and criminal justice in 2007 from Saint Martin's University, a Master of Arts in elementary education from Arizona State University in 2010 and a Master of Arts in educational administration from the University of Idaho in 2021.   

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 this June, 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 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