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Milken Educator Awards crowns Alexis King the first recipient of the 2017-2018 season

Lowell Milken begins the national Award tour in California and presents the Ayala High School teacher with $25,000 cash

October 10, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Alexis King's students don't just read Julius Caesar, they conduct a CSI investigation into his death. The English teacher's innovative and creative assignments help students learn to appreciate literature and capture their undivided attention.  

Today, it was a special guest who captivated the student body during a school assembly: Lowell Milken, Milken Family Foundation chairman and co-founder, surprised King with the first Milken Educator Award of the 2017-2018 season. California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Chino Valley Unified Superintendent Wayne Joseph joined the celebration to recognize this exceptional educator before a crowd of cheering students, colleagues, and visiting dignitaries.

King is among up to 45 honorees who will receive the national recognition and unrestricted $25,000 cash prize this year. She is the first recipient from Chino Valley Unified to receive the Milken Educator Award.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching," has been opening minds and shaping futures for 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."

At Ayala High School, King relies on technology and culturally relevant means to engage her students, who develop critical thinking and analytical skills through discussions and projects. Ranging from Advanced Placement (AP) to special education, King's upperclassmen improve academically and behaviorally due to her varied instructional practices, positive demeanor and approachability.

"It takes a special teacher to spark curiosity and instill a love of learning – and that is Alexis King. Both high-achieving students and those who struggle make tremendous gains, not only in academic progress, but in understanding the materials and applying literary concepts to real-world experiences," said Lowell Milken, who created the Awards. "We're excited to launch this season's Milken Educator Awards with such a tremendous talent as Alexis right here in California where it all began 30 years ago."

"It's truly an honor to join the outstanding team of educators and staff at Ruben S. Ayala High School to honor Alexis King," said Tom Torlakson, who started his public service career as a high school science teacher and coach. "This terrific teacher does great work every day and is a role model for instructors all over California. Congratulations on receiving the Milken Educator Award and joining this elite national team of remarkable teachers."

"Good teachers help students learn; incredible teachers create the loft to help kids soar to their true potential. Alexis King is one of those incredible teachers, so deserving of the prestigious Milken Educator Award," said Wayne Joseph. "As an English teacher, she is an inspiration to her students, many of whom have pursued teaching because of her passion. As the Chair of the English Department and organizer of new teacher orientations, she is a mentor to her peers. Receiving this prestigious award is a testament to her dedication and talents. Congratulations, Alexis!"

About Milken Educator Alexis King
English teacher Alexis King expects her students to try new things, open their minds to fresh ideas, collaborate and interact with their peers, and expand their insights as they work together. In King's classes at Ruben S. Ayala High School in Chino Hills, students pair up for peer editing assignments modeled after speed dating and execute crime-show-inspired investigations into the death of Julius Caesar. King teaches AP, general education, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) and special education students. They love the challenge she provides, flocking to her classes every year because they know she will help them succeed. And they do: King's AP students pass their exams at a rate of 75% or higher each year, well above the national average. Her college prep classes, which include special education students, earn pass rates on the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) of 95% or higher; many students say they wouldn't have passed without King's help.

The chair of Ayala's English department, King is known to work effectively with students at all levels of ability, confidence and social skills, helping them build language and communication skills they will use for the rest of their lives. She mentors new teachers and runs their orientation, has presented to staff about close reading strategies and integrating technology into the classroom, and has served as the 10th-grade team lead. As a member of the district's Synced Solution team, King worked to integrate the California Standards into the English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum and piloted the new lessons in her classroom; that curriculum, as well as pre- and post-assessments she created, are now used across the district.

King served as the coordinator for the school's Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) mid-cycle accreditation visit. She is a member of the California Activities Director Association (CADA) and has served as class advisor to the graduating classes of 2013 and 2017, overseeing activities with these students throughout their four years at Ayala. As an AVID teacher, King helps at-risk students integrate and succeed in difficult classes; she is part of the AVID site team and supports other teachers as they work together to create an atmosphere conducive to the AVID requirements. She comes to her students' sporting events and plays, attends Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings for her special education students, and exposes students to new cultures through trips with People to People International. King has received the highest compliment a teacher can hope for: Former students have come back to tell her that she inspired them to become English teachers as well.

King earned a bachelor's in English in 2008 from California State University Fullerton and a master's in special education in 2014 from Point Loma Nazarene University.

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, King's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top principals, teachers and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2017-18 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 21-24, 2018. 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 about the Milken Educator Awards, 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 30 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.