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Focusing Students' Career Options Lands Teacher Nick Peruski a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Michigan teacher trains high schoolers to find the right future-job fit at Lakeland High in White Lake

December 06, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif.,  When it comes to the world of work, business and technology teacher Nick Peruski is really working it for his students at Lakeland High School in White Lake, Michigan. Preparing students for career opportunities in business, marketing and other fields with an emphasis on non-college options, Peruski opens doors to the future with class field trips to companies in different industries. Peruski also prepares students with practice job interviews, resume-building tips and business-plan pointers. Beyond leading local field trips and out of state jaunts to New York and elsewhere, Peruski understands that young people will compete at a global level, having taught in China and presented at a professional conference in Lithuania. Students not only gain the benefit of a worldly voice close at hand, but have a strong advocate in their corner who supports their diverse backgrounds and interests.

But it was Peruski whose horizons expanded this morning at a surprise school assembly where he was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher and Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Michael F. Rice. Peruski was named a 2019-20 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. He is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Michigan this year, and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20.

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."

Peruski is bringing that future closer for his students through his emphasis on career and technical education. Understanding that finding the right career is job-one for students and that not all good jobs today require a four-year college degree, Peruski's practical, real-world emphasis is embraced by many students who might otherwise struggle to find a place in the rapidly evolving job market of tomorrow.

"Nick Peruski knows and shows his pupils that success is a skill that can be learned," said Gallagher. "Building a better future one good job at a time, Peruski gives his students the practical knowhow and self-confidence to thrive and adapt to vocational and technological challenges. Nick's creative, adaptable methods and commitment to his students' needs is the kind of forward-looking dedication we seek in our Milken Educators."

"Mr. Peruski is an innovator in collaborative teaching with students, parents, and the community," said Dr.Rice. "He is a dynamic mentor and coach for both new teachers and veteran teachers. He connects students from classroom and global perspectives and loves his profession. His career is a case in point of why our best and brightest graduates should seek a career in teaching."

"We are incredibly proud of Mr. Peruski," said Dr. Paul Salah, Superintendent of Huron Valley Schools. "He represents all educators in Huron Valley Schools and is an example of what makes our community special. Mr. Peruski embodies our mission which is focused upon inspiring and building futures one student at a time. He deserves this award because of his relentless pursuit of excellence in education."

About Milken Educator Nick Peruski

Nick Peruski is committed to preparing his students to thrive in the working world. The coordinator of the career and technical education (CTE) department at Lakeland High School in White Lake, Michigan, Peruski is a strong advocate for non-college alternatives. He brings speakers from a wide variety of careers and industries into his classroom, both in person and via Skype, to introduce students to as many options as possible. Students in Peruski's project-based classroom write and present business plans through Virtual Enterprises International, an educational nonprofit that offers business courses for students. Peruski has presented at the district level about the value of CTE and takes students to visit businesses on field trips, including some in New York City. He uses social media to highlight the action in his classroom, eager to keep parents, the community and former students engaged. Peruski works with students on their resumes, coaches them in mock interviews and connects students with job opportunities in the community.

Peruski is known as an outside-the-box thinker dedicated to helping students learn and succeed. In his previous role leading the math department at nearby Muir Middle School, Peruski advocated for and piloted standards-based grading, now used throughout the building. He has served on building and district committees focused on instructional technology, evaluation, policy advocacy and finance. A respected teacher leader, Peruski mentors new teachers and coaches veterans. He participated in the Galileo Leadership Consortium; taught at China's University of Science and Technology in Beijing, where he developed curriculum for an international school; and presented at an international conference in Lithuania.

A deep believer in equality and respect for all students, Peruski advises LINK, Lakeland’s student peer mentoring program. Students feel they can trust and confide in him. Peruski holds high expectations for his pupils, but they eagerly stretch to meet them.

Peruski earned a bachelor's degree in integrated science in 2010 and a master's degree in instructional technology in 2015 from Eastern Michigan University.

More information about Peruski, 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 2,800 top teachers, principals, and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2019-20 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, 2020 where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, the Milken Educator Awards' "Why Not Us" program will pair each 2019-20 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy.

More than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development 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 selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.

The cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways; for instance, on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even on 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. Everyone is encouraged to watch the tour 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 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 
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