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Tami Lunsford is the first recipient of the Milken Educator Award in Delaware

Newark Charter High School science teacher is a model of educator excellence for the state and nation

October 25, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Tami Lunsford is the first Milken Educator Award winner from the state of Delaware. The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching," comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. The education 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." Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement.

Mike Milken, president and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation, surprised Lunsford with the Award and cash prize in front of a gathered student body who went buck wild for this popular teacher. Milken cited the consistent success of her students and her contributions to establishing Newark Charter High School. Angeline Rivello, Delaware's Associate Secretary of Education joined the celebration to praise this educator and school.

Lunsford is among up to 45 honorees who will receive this national recognition for the 2017-18 Milken Educator Awards season.

Inquiry-based investigations, project-based learning and science competitions are key instructional practices Lunsford employs to engage her students as an Advanced Placement (AP) Biology and marine science teacher. She also builds skills through the curriculum to help students become proficient in collaboration, problem solving, and social responsibility – talents immeasurably important for college and career. Teaching is a calling for Lunsford who started at the university level, and quickly became a leader at Newark Charter, helping to expand the institution from a middle school to a National Blue Ribbon high school.

"Tami Lunsford's passion and energy in teaching inspires a love of learning – her students are immersed into a world that not only understands the science but embraces its awesome power and future applications," said Milken. "We know that science is the engine of prosperity so Tami's influence will be felt far beyond the classroom. We're confident the future discoveries of the students she inspires will change the world."  

Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is 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. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

"We know the most important in-school factor to student achievement is the quality of instruction," said Delaware's Secretary of Education Susan Bunting. "Outstanding educators such as Tami are making a difference in Delaware classrooms every day, and I congratulate Tami for receiving this prestigious recognition."

About Milken Educator Tami Lunsford
Tami Lunsford is nurturing the next generation of scientists at Delaware's Newark Charter High School (NCHS). During one project, more than 50 students in her Marine Science classes learned about sustainability and marine pollution as they transformed plastic bags into more than 5,000 sleeping mats, which they donated to local homeless shelters. Lunsford takes every opportunity to ensure that learning is an adventure: Her students travel annually to Cape Henlopen for horseshoe crab mating season and to the Marine Science Institute in Bermuda every other year. They earn among the highest AP Biology scores in the state, with a 92% pass rate last year. But more importantly, Lunsford's students leave her classes with increased confidence and a true love of science. Many who started with her as freshmen have headed to college as science majors, including one student who took every class Lunsford teaches and earned a full college scholarship to study marine science.

Lunsford is committed to extending her students' science education beyond the walls of her classroom. She helped the student-led Marine Science, Environmental and Feminist Clubs organize a visit from U.S. Senator Tom Carper to voice their concerns about national environmental policy; the students were then invited to Washington, D.C., to sit in on a legislative hearing focused on protecting the oceans. Lunsford coached the Marine Science Club to an eighth-place finish in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl and helped students organize a local Science March on Earth Day, an effort that landed students an interview on National Public Radio.

Newark Charter brought Lunsford in when it extended its K-8 grades to add the high school, and she has been a leader since her arrival. She helped shape the school's science curriculum and was appointed as the school's Faculty Team Leader to serve as a liaison with administration, plan interdisciplinary efforts and coach new teachers. A past president of the National Marine Educators Association, Lunsford is a leader in the larger science education community. As the education specialist and internship coordinator for Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE), she partners with organizations like the New England Aquarium on annual workshops to train science teachers on how to integrate marine science units into curricula.

Lunsford holds a B.S. in environmental science from the University of Delaware and a master's in marine science from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) at the College of William and Mary.

More information about Lunsford, 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, Lunsford's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals 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 20-23, 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. 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.

More information about Michael Milken is at

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.