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Henderson Special Education Teacher Surprised with National Milken Educator Award and $25,000 Cash Prize

Foothill High School's Joseph Kielminski honored with the "Oscar of Teaching" for exceptional and inclusive instructional practices and student achievement growth

April 12, 2024

Santa Monica, Calif. — A special education teacher at Foothill High School in the Clark County School District received a heartwarming surprise today when he was presented with the Milken Educator Award, a prestigious national honor recognizing exceptional educators for outstanding innovation and excellence in education. At a schoolwide assembly in front of cheering students, colleagues, dignitaries and media, Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley was joined by Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert to present Joseph Kielminski with the career-changing honor. Bestowed by the Milken Family Foundation, the Award includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize that recipients may use however they choose. 

"Joseph Kielminski is an outstanding educator, leader and relationship-builder," said Dr. Foley, who is a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator herself. "Joseph's tireless commitment to providing rich educational opportunities and enhancing instruction is making a positive impact on Foothill and the Henderson community. Congratulations, Joseph, and thank you for your dedication to shaping the future for young people every day." 

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. 

"I am pleased to recognize Joseph Kielminski, an outstanding educator who exemplifies the hard work, passion, and dedication of our state's public school teachers," Governor Lombardo said. "Educators like Joseph make a meaningful and tangible difference every day in the lives of students." 

Kielminski is the second Nevada educator to receive the honor this season, joining Yamilet Lopez of Washoe County who was awarded in March at Alice Maxwell Elementary School. 

"Joseph Kielminski is an exemplary special education teacher who goes above and beyond for his students," said Superintendent Ebert. "His efforts extend beyond the classroom walls to ensure that his students have access to college and career opportunities, which includes hands-on learning experiences." 

More about Joseph Kielminski 

Empowering Every Student: Joseph Kielminski is dedicated to fostering belonging and pride among his students at Foothill High School, where he serves as a special education teacher. As the Special Education Department chair, he exposes his students to new experiences and empowers them to realize their potential. His efforts have contributed to a notable increase in the graduation rate for special education students.

Providing Rich Educational Opportunities: Kielminski's commitment to inclusivity has delivered impactful initiatives at Foothill — like the Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs. The latter is a vibrant gathering of parents, peers, staff and special education students who spend the morning playing games, dancing and grilling. Always looking to challenge his classes, Kielminski worked with colleagues to introduce his students to elective classes like video production and ceramics. His guidance and tailored curriculum contributed to a successful year — full of exciting morning announcements!

Supporting Future Leaders: A champion for his students' involvement outside the classroom, Kielminski encouraged their attendance and participation at the National Division on Career Development and Transition Conference in Reno, where students gained valuable leadership experience while conducting meetings and advocating for their needs. Kielminski develops behavior logs to help track and improve student behavior, and maintains proactive parent communication on student performance and growth through an online classroom management platform and app. Other on-campus initiatives Kielminski has launched include a sign language club, a classroom garden where students grow and sell their harvests, a hot beverage cart service teaching life and communication skills, as well as a campus and classroom cleanup group.

Impactful Community Leadership: Through his service as a Summit Transition Program teacher leader and participation in statewide autism community events, Kielminski's passion and innovation have extended to his mentorship of teachers involved in Specialized Programs Teacher Assistant (SPTA) and Alternative Route to Licensure (ARL) programs. His knowledge of data collection, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) techniques, classroom management, and professional development on Nevada Educator Performance Framework (NEPF) and English language learner (ELL) best practices contribute to the overall success of his team as a Professional Learning Community (PLC) leader.  The dynamic partnerships he has forged with local businesses and community organizations like Goodwill and the Special Olympics provide his students with unique, community-based instruction and paves the way for their successful transition plans upon graduation.

Education: Kielminski earned his Bachelor of Arts in history and a Master of Arts in teaching autism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2013 and 2019, respectively. 

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