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The “Oscars of Teaching” return: Milken Educator Awards honor teaching excellence one great educator at a time

Recognizing unsung heroes of the classroom for more than 30 years, the Milken Family Foundation provides surprise $25,000 turbo boosts to worthy teachers nationwide

October 03, 2018

SANTA MONICA, Calif., (October 3, 2018) — A new school year means new school heroes. That’s because each fall, the Milken Educator Awards embark on a traveling tour of America with a unique itinerary: To surprise the nation’s most inspirational, transformational teachers in front of their schools with individual $25,000 cash prizes, plus unprecedented opportunities to broaden their impact on education at every level. Hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with stories of dedicated educators going the extra mile for their students, colleagues and communities.

But which states and school districts will the 2018-19 tour visit? That’s top secret until each prestigious award is announced: Neither honoree nor school knows what’s happening until the Milken Family Foundation (MFF) surprises the educator during an all-school assembly filled with cheering students, colleagues, state and local officials, and media.

Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation, explained the rationale for the Award, first presented in 1987. “Outstanding teachers are the lifeblood of education and their leadership is a beacon of hope for students,” said Milken. “Without vibrant and visionary teaching—qualities epitomized by Milken Educators—there is little chance of producing students with the same positive spirit, academic excellence and real-world impact.”

Research demonstrates that teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student performance. In fact, the most effective teachers produce as much as five times the learning gains of the least effective teachers. And in an age where U.S. students must increasingly compete with students around the world for jobs and opportunities, the Milken Educator Award’s motto has never been more salient: “The future belongs to the educated.” In that vein, recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the visibility and opportunities inherent in the Award.

In creating the Award, Milken also intended to pique student interest in teaching as a profession. Since the Award’s inception, more than two million students have witnessed a teacher being celebrated with the fanfare typically associated with actors and athletes. Many have gone on to teach, with a few being named Milken Educators!

Along with the financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a coast-to-coast group of more than 2,700 top principals, teachers and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to strengthening education. The 2018-19 honorees will also attend an all-expenses paid Milken Educator Forum in New Orleans on March 21-24, 2019, where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million for the individual cash awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. 

  • The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators; this season honors elementary school teachers.
  • Veteran Milken Educators frequently go on to leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
  • Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards 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. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final selection 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 funding 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 www.facebook.com/milkeneducatorawards, www.twitter.com/milken, www.youtube.com/milkenaward and http://instagram.com/milkenfamilyfdn.

For more information, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

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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 | Cell: (818) 903-6079 | Email: lynneerusso@gmail.com


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