Press Releases    All Press Releases


Helping Students Believe and Achieve Earns Sara King a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Honolulu administrator brings Title I support and engagement to Ala Wai Elementary

February 04, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — It's not where you come from but where you're going that truly matters. And nowhere is that truer than at Ala Wai Elementary in Honolulu, Hawaii, where Sara King is Title I coordinator paving the road to a better future for her students. A hands-on educator and administrator, King strives to boost student support systems, parental involvement and technology development at Ala Wai, particularly for the low-income students Title I is designed to aid. A former first-grade teacher and grade level leader, King is an advocate for project based learning and promotes student leadership and ownership of their own education. Helping students attain their full potential requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses individual needs, a responsive local educational system and compliance with state and federal standards.

But it was King who got an assist in reaching her full potential today 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 Hawaii State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christina Kishimoto. An appreciative King was named a 2018-19 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. She is the sole Milken Educator Award winner from Hawaii this year, and is among the 33 honorees nationwide for 2018-19.

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."

Focused on creating opportunities, King partners with colleagues to narrow achievement gaps, increase attendance, develop self-confident students and raise the bar for student performance across the board. She pioneered student-led conferences at Ala Wai and guides her young students in tackling real world projects; for example, developing methods to protect homes during extreme weather conditions and proposing ways to encourage drivers to slow down on school-adjacent streets. A boon to staff as well as students, King mentors new teachers. She actively promotes professional development and facilitates the integration of new curriculum.

"Sara King's commitment to making a great education available to all drives this exemplary educator," said Foley. "By empowering students and staff to become leaders each of their own enterprise, King helps bring out what's best in every individual. We say 'aloha' and proudly welcome her as a Milken Educator."

"Sara's dedication to excellence in the classroom, empowers her students to be accomplished learners who utilize their voice, collaborate with one another, and develop solutions to real world problems," said Kishimoto. "Her tenacity in ensuring that her students are equipped with the skills to thrive in an information-dependent global society is tremendous and we congratulate and thank her for being such an inspiration for our students."

"Sara's genuine devotion and continuous drive to empower each child to thrive both in and out of the classroom truly makes her deserving of this recognition," said Complex Area Superintendent Linell Dilwith. "Our complex, students, and families are extremely fortunate to have a teacher as dedicated and passionate as Mrs. King."

"Mrs. King is an inspirational educator who inspires her students to believe in themselves and to dream big and work hard to make it happen," said Ala Wai Elementary School Principal Michelle DeBusca. "As a school leader, she is collaborative and supportive in developing school systems that are focused on student needs. Mrs. King is resourceful and innovative in her practices to challenge students to meet their fullest potential."

About Milken Educator Sara King
As the Title I coordinator for Ala Wai Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawaii, Sara King develops school-wide support systems that allow all students to thrive and reach their full potential. She works with her colleagues to achieve these goals with tiered support systems and enrichment programs. Working within the expectations of state and federal compliance and fiscal responsibilities, King provides Ala Wai students the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in an increasingly global society. She loops parents in during monthly coffee hours, where she shares testing, learning and homework strategies families can use to aid their students’ progress. Everything King does supports the school’s vision: Believe, Achieve, Succeed, Dream Big, and Make It Happen.

Before taking over the Title I coordinator role in August 2017, King taught first grade and served as grade level leader. She embraced project-based learning, believing that all students can be leaders and facilitate their own learning. When students wondered why heavy rains had flooded an area on the school grounds, King encouraged them to ask questions. They came up with 102, including: Why doesn't the water move? Why did it rain so hard? Will the water cover the whole school next time? King led her young pupils through a critical thinking process that landed on one question the class would work to solve: How do we keep our homes safe from severe weather conditions? The students researched online and listened to guest speakers to develop their proposals. For other projects, King incorporated the Engineering Design Process, guiding students to come up with methods to stop cars from speeding near the school and to create a unique drip irrigation system for their class garden. Always eager to incorporate technology, King helped students create a digital storyboard to memorialize the adventures of their school garden in a blog. She pioneered student-led conferences, where students walk parents through a binder holding their work and progress charts; the entire school now uses these tools.

King led the science committee in aligning curriculum with the Next Generation Science Standards and coordinates professional development on literacy. She coaches basketball and softball, organizes school beautification projects, and plans the school’s learning showcase, Leader In Me Parent Night, Title I workshops, and May Day. King is a role model and advocate for the fourth- and fifth-graders in the Student Lighthouse Committee, which provides students with leadership opportunities on campus. She mentors novice teachers, including one international educator who was hired unexpectedly shortly before school started; King helped get her room ready, shared lesson plans, found her an apartment, and continued to meet with her weekly to help her adjust to island life and her new school.

King earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 2008 and a master's in curriculum studies in 2012 from the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

More information about King, 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 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2018-19 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in New Orleans from March 21-24, 2019. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional learning 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 approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children's education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded 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. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media 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 31 years ago 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;