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Myrtle Beach Educator Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Coastal High School social studies teacher Sarah Vicini earns national honor

January 25, 2024

Myrtle Beach, S.C. — Coastal High School (CHS) students and faculty were eager to host South Carolina Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver for a schoolwide assembly earlier today. Welcoming faces quickly turned to wonder when the Milken Family Foundation joined the gathering and made a surprise announcement: Sarah Vicini, a social studies teacher and instructional coach at CHS, was a recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award!

The national Award comes with a $25,000 cash prize that Vicini can use however she chooses, as well as lifelong membership to the Milken Educator Network to collaborate with fellow recipients and broaden her impact on K-12 education. The exciting news was delivered by Dr. Joshua Barnett, who represented the Milken Family Foundation as CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.
"Sarah Vicini is a beacon of inspiration for her students and peers," said Dr. Barnett. "Bringing her lessons to life encourages students to think critically about history's impact on the world today and, in the process, shapes their roles as active, young citizens. Beyond the classroom, Sarah is an exceptional leader, mentor and community builder – qualities that embody the Milken Educator Award. Congratulations."
Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," the Awards will honor up to 75 recipients across the country in 2023-24 as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. 2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to "Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate" the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career.

"Sarah Vicini is a shining star for her students along the Grand Strand at Coastal High School," said Superintendent Weaver. "Her commitment to success propels inspiration far beyond her classroom door. It is felt statewide – which is why we celebrate her today as one of the nation's finest educators. The Palmetto State is excited to call our very own Sarah Vicini a Milken Educator!"

The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the Award.

More About Sarah Vicini

Enthusiastic Educator Inspires Excellence: Vicini is known throughout the halls of CHS as an enthusiastic, dedicated professional. She incorporates innovative instructional practices that encourage critical thinking and collaboration, and her unique approach to student learning yields results. Over the past few years, Vicini's U.S. history and government students had a higher overall passing percentage than their peers in the state's annual benchmark testing.

Real-World Assignments Engage Students' Minds: Vicini's classes are not just lessons; they are hands-on, engaging experiences for her students. In her law education class, the students set up mock trials of current cases to explore all facets of the U.S. legal system. In her American history classes, students explore the lives of historical figures by actively taking on the roles of various leaders through journaling, performances and case studies. In project-based learning fairs like the school's "Archerstock," her psychology students use their creativity to adapt well-known fairy tales, using the updated stories to combat mental health stigmas.

Embraces Students' Uniqueness: Vicini embraces students' individual needs and learning styles. She often consults with the school's special education coordinator to help meet the needs of her students with disabilities. For others needing assistance to reach their benchmarks, she goes the extra mile to identify their unique needs, help them set clear goals, and achieve those goals together.

Natural Leader Who Mentors and Encourages: At the heart of this teacher's success is her leadership, both within the classroom and amongst her peers. As the school's Title II coordinator, she ensures that federally funded professional development aligns seamlessly with the school's needs. She leads staff development sessions, infusing energy, compassion, and positivity into every interaction – an asset to mentoring CHS' new teachers.

Education: A graduate of Coastal Carolina University, Vicini earned her Bachelor of Arts in education in 2017 and her Master of Education in 2018.

More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: "The Future Belongs to the Educated"

  • The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles this June, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.
  • Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children. 

Follow the Milken Educator Awards tour and use the #MEA3K and #MilkenAward hashtags on: Facebook (MilkenEducatorAwards) | X (Milken) | YouTube (MilkenAward) | Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn) | LinkedIn (MilkenFamilyFdn) | TikTok (MilkenAward).

Visit or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772 for more information.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Created by Lowell Milken, 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 Milken Family Foundation celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at