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Las Vegas Teacher Ali Jun Announced as Recipient of Nevada's Milken Educator Award and $25,000 Cash Prize

Lowell Milken is joined by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert to honor the music specialist at Beverly S. Mathis Elementary School

A Teacher Appreciation Day Surprise That Brings Music to Her Ears 

May 03, 2022

Santa Monica, Calif., —  A school assembly turned into the ultimate Teacher Appreciation Day surprise for Ali Jun, music specialist at Beverly S. Mathis Elementary School in Las Vegas. Before cheering students, appreciative colleagues, local state and district leaders and media, Jun received Nevada's 2021 Milken Educator Award and its unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. The event was part of the Milken Family Foundation's 35th anniversary coast-to-coast tour celebrating some 60 outstanding educators with the Award in the public fanfare they deserve. 

Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken was joined by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert to honor Jun for the positive impact she has made on students' lives and the culture and climate of the school. 

"Ali Jun demonstrates excellence in arts education. She fosters creativity, critical thinking, perseverance and self-confidence that benefit students across the curriculum," said Lowell Milken. "Ali's enthusiastic spirit shines beyond the classroom, where she contributes to the strength of the faculty, engages families and serves as a model member of the community. I congratulate Ali and thank her for making education her chosen profession." 

Jun's achievement follows the legacy of Mathis Elementary namesake Dr. Beverly S. Mathis, who herself is a Milken Educator from Nevada's 2000 class. Mathis was on hand today to offer her congratulations and welcome Jun into the Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 Milken Educator Award recipients dedicated to strengthening K-12 education.

"Ali Jun is an exceptional educator who brings passion, care, and joy to every interaction with her students, and it is my pleasure to congratulate her on receiving the Milken Educator Award," said Governor Sisolak. "Jun is a perfect example of a caring educator who goes above and beyond to provide the best for her students, and I am thrilled we have the opportunity to celebrate her, especially during Teacher Appreciation Week!" 

"Caring and effective educators are the most important factor for our students' well-being in this moment, and Ali Jun is the gold standard of an exceptional educator," said Superintendent Ebert. "Jun is a creative, engaging, and vibrant educator and we are fortunate to have her talents supporting the students at Beverly Mathis Elementary School. She is absolutely deserving of this recognition, and we could not be more thrilled to celebrate her today, which is Teacher Appreciation Day!" 

More About Ali Jun

Drumbeat in the Classroom: Each week, Jun educates every student at Dr. Beverly S. Mathis Elementary School, which serves kindergarten through fifth grade. She instills fundamental skills like rhythm, musical notation and ear-training, integrating academic learning wherever possible. Units on bucket drumming teach counting and rhythmic patterns, and students practice notating what they hear on the whiteboard as Jun plays melodies on the piano. Older students work toward being able to identify all the woodwind instruments by both sight and sound. 

Learning Adaptation: Throughout the pandemic, students engaged with Jun both virtually and in person, participating enthusiastically in her innovative lessons. During COVID school closures, she gathered supplies to distribute to school families, always reminding students to sing and dance at home. She raised funds from outside donors to buy ukuleles, drums and sticks, guitars and recorders. 

Pride in Performance: In addition to instrument ensembles and theatrical productions, Jun leads the Mathis Maestros, the school's honor choir, and its junior counterpart, the Mini Maestros. Students have performed locally, including at the Ethel M chocolate factory and in the PBS Holiday Showcase. When the choir sang in the annual parade marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jun interviewed Dr. Beverly Mathis and built the program around her favorite songs. Thanks to Jun's support, hundreds of students tackle their fears each year to audition for solos in her school musicals and choir performances. 

Lifelong Lessons: Jun arranges field trips to the Smith Center for professional performances of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, knowing that learning to be an enthusiastic audience member is part of developing a lifelong love of music. When former pupils come to visit, Jun helps them with magnet school auditions and college applications. 

Building Community: Jun brings a positive outlook to her interactions with students, colleagues and families. She goes to great lengths to involve families in her efforts to showcase their children's accomplishments to the community. Since Mathis opened in 2017, Jun has been a fundamental part of the culture. She penned the original anthem every student knows by heart: "We are the Mustangs, the Mighty Mathis Mustangs, galloping to the future ahead!"

Education: Jun earned a bachelor's (2003) and master's (2004) in music education from Syracuse University.

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 MilkenEducatorAwards.org 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 MFF.org.

Press Contact:

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


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