Press Releases    All Press Releases


Jessica Zimmerman Earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Instructional Leadership in Phoenix’s Roosevelt School District

Zimmerman hones classroom experience to help drive teaching and learning at Valley View Leadership Academy and district at large

May 13, 2022

Santa Monica, Calif., — In an ever-evolving profession, teachers at all levels need exceptional mentors as they continue to adapt instruction that will help students maximize their potential. As an instructional coach at Valley View Leadership Academy in the Roosevelt School District, Jessica Zimmerman helps guide professional learning to strengthen educator effectiveness and increase student achievement. Today an all-school assembly transformed into a Milken Educator Award celebration of Zimmerman's impact on students and colleagues alike. 

Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken was joined by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman to honor Zimmerman with the prestigious national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. 

In addition to the celebration before cheering students, colleagues, state and local officials, and media, Zimmerman will join the national Milken Educator Network of more than 2,800 educators and leaders across the country dedicated to strengthening K-12 education. 

Zimmerman is among more than 60 educators nationwide who will receive the Award during the 2021-22 school year and the first recipient from the Roosevelt School District. She is the second 2021 recipient from Arizona; Melissa Martin, principal of Chinle Junior School in Chinle, received a Milken Educator Award in April. 

"Jessica Zimmerman is a strong instructional leader who analyzes data to drive decision-making and develops innovative strategies to meet everyone's needs," said Lowell Milken. "Beyond her school, she shares her expertise across the district – broadening her reach to the community. I commend Jessica for her daily work to create a collaborative, supportive learning environment for all."

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.

"Jessica Zimmerman has spent her entire career creating opportunities for fellow teachers and students to achieve high aspirations," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. "So when we faced uncertainty in the midst of a global pandemic, Zimmerman met the moment, rising above her responsibilities to ensure that these opportunities wouldn't be missed out on, especially by students."

More About Jessica Zimmerman

New Strategies: Zimmerman helps teachers increase student engagement, incorporate technology into their classrooms, and think outside the box to support their students. Zimmerman seeks out district resources, pursues a variety of avenues to enhance her own practice, then shares instructional strategies and professional learning opportunities to her colleagues. 

Personalized Coaching: She differentiates her coaching to accommodate teachers wherever they are in their career, from beginning to veteran. Zimmerman demonstrates lessons, provides guidance and helps teachers plan lessons. During the pandemic, she met with teachers online to help them with effective strategies for remote instruction. 

District Leadership: Roosevelt School District partners with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), leveraging the role of instructional coaches to strengthen educator effectiveness and improve student achievement. Zimmerman leads professional learning communities for Valley View teachers and the district's instructional coaches, focusing on curriculum implementation and coaching cycles. One of her key goals: create opportunities for her colleagues to become teacher leaders. 

Classroom Experience: Before stepping into her current coaching role, Zimmerman taught kindergarten, second and third grades, as well as leading Roosevelt School District's gifted program. She still focuses on gifted students and is committed to providing access and equity to ensure that they receive a high-quality education. 

Helping Gifted Students: Concerned about maintaining gifted students' access to appropriate instruction during school closures, Zimmerman quickly developed Zoom lessons and materials for online instruction, then met online with gifted students in large groups, small groups and one-to-one. Zimmerman created and facilitated an online gifted teacher training module that was approved by the district board and positions Roosevelt's teachers to earn certification for teaching gifted students. 

Community Partnerships: Zimmerman plays a key role in expanding opportunities for all students at Valley View. She is the "trainer of trainers" for The Leader In Me, a program that addresses social-emotional learning, providing mentoring, coaching and professional development to make sure teachers are informed and working toward clearly articulated goals. Zimmerman took charge of the school's 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant, forming community partnerships to provide a wide range of afterschool clubs and activities. Rather than waiting for faculty to volunteer, she proactively interviewed colleagues and suggested activities that aligned with their interests. Under her guidance, Zimmerman grew student participation in 21st Century clubs from 50 to more than 250 students.

Education: Zimmerman is a graduate of Arizona State University. She earned a bachelor's in communications in 2010 and a master's in elementary education and teaching in 2013.

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 also 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
Vice President, Communications
310-570-4774 Office 310-435-9259 Cell