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New Mexico Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Science teacher from Loving honored for innovation, among more than 60 recipients nationwide with two in New Mexico

Oprah Winfrey congratulates Milken Educators in heartwarming video message as 'light in this world'

April 19, 2022

LOVING, N.M. — In a schoolwide assembly today, Loving High School science teacher Tyler Finch received the surprise of a lifetime—a $25,000 Milken Educator Award presented by the Milken Family Foundation during its nationwide tour honoring outstanding educators. Finch was recognized for his outstanding innovation and creativity in motivating his students while preparing them for life after high school, college and beyond. He is the first recipient of the Award in Loving Municipal Schools.

Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," the Milken Educator Awards celebrate, elevate and activate the American teaching profession and inspire young, capable people to join it. The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award. 

"Through his high engagement and innovative leadership in and out of the classroom, Tyler Finch is making an indelible mark on his students, colleagues and community," said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. "His expertise and creative use of technology to reach his students, effectively examine data to develop instructional practices and leverage his talent across the district are some of the exceptional attributes that make him a Milken Educator." 

Oprah, a longtime education advocate, shared her congratulations to this year's winners in a video message shared earlier this year thanking "the most incredible educators around the country" and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the "tireless work" they do. 

"Tyler Finch represents the best of the best in our profession," said New Mexico Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. "He inspires his students to succeed at the highest levels, and he reminds every educator in New Mexico why we joined this noble profession with its tremendous capacity to shape young lives. Thank you, Mr. Finch, for being a guiding light for all of us. You make us proud."

More About Tyler Finch 

Leadership through creativity: Finch chairs the district science department in Loving and has a unique ability to reach and motivate his students, regardless of their background, and continuously adjusts his practices to meet their diverse needs. He consistently examines student data to inform his instructional practices and helps colleagues to do the same. Finch developed an analytical tool to help ensure that district assessments are fair and meaningful. With his years of expertise with educational technology, especially with the Canvas learning management system, Finch was able to swiftly navigate the uncharted territory educators faced when schools closed their buildings in March 2020 and shifted to remote learning. He provided daily video instruction via Canvas and learned Spanish to enable participation by his monolingual students, allowing them to participate in online discussions and maximize virtual instruction. 

Well known in Loving as a football and track coach, Finch took advice and inspiration from coaches at Stanford and Vanderbilt Universities by creating Falcon Strong, a workout program for students that spans both the field and classroom. Football players memorize his "Falcon Strong" creed at the start of each season and it has since been adapted for the entire school. 

Education: Finch earned a bachelor's in science in 2013 and a master's in curriculum and instruction in 2018 from Eastern New Mexico University.

More About the Milken Educator Awards: "The future belongs to the educated."

Along with the $25,000 financial prize, 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 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 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

Press Contact:

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