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Soaring High in the Classroom: Third-Grade Teacher Lisa Richard of Lebanon, Oregon, Merits Milken Educator Award and $25,000

Pioneer School teacher maximizes student potential and cultivates sense of belonging

December 13, 2016

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Whether it's flying a kite to connect weather and art, or dressing up in costumes to represent People in History projects, classroom lessons become real-life experiences for students in Lisa Richard's third-grade class at Pioneer School in Lebanon, Oregon. On a normal school day, it's Mrs. Richard who cheers her students on, but today roles reversed as students screamed congratulations after a secret announcement. At an all-school assembly, Richard received the prestigious Milken Educator Award for her outstanding contributions in elementary academics. The honor comes with a $25,000 cash prize for her to use as she chooses.

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley, Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Salam Noor and Lebanon Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Rob Hess presented the Award to Richard. She is the first recipient within Lebanon Community Schools to receive the Milken Educator Award, and the only awardee this year in Oregon. Richard is among up to 35 honorees who will receive the recognition nationwide for 2016-17.

This season marks the 30th year of the Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching."

With selfless dedication, Richard assures her classroom has the resources, tools and attention necessary to develop a positive and impactful learning environment during the school year and into the summer. Once a high school dropout, Richard received her GED at age 27 before earning both a Bachelor and Master of Science in Education from Western Oregon University. Her empathy and understanding for struggling students energize her goals as a teacher to ensure that students do not fall through the cracks.

"Lisa Richard's natural sense of connection and engagement with her students motivates and inspires them to achieve their personal best," said Foley. "Lisa's personal story of resilience and determination embodies the Milken Educator Awards motto, 'the future belongs to the educated.' Through the power of education, Lisa is shaping the next generation of leaders so that they have the opportunities needed to live their dreams."

"Lisa is the teacher you want every child to experience; a teacher whose energy and passion is infectious," said Noor. "Lisa is deeply devoted to the profession and to the students she serves. Her classroom is safe, welcoming and full of life. Students are eager to learn from her, and not afraid to fail. I am honored to meet Lisa in person and to recognize her with this Milken Educator Award."

"Lebanon Community Schools would like to thank the Milken Family Foundation for recognizing one of our teachers with the prestigious Milken Award," said Hess. "Recognition programs like this one make a huge difference to the teaching profession, our local community and our students. We are honored and humbled."

At Pioneer School, Richard has taught at the 2nd and 3rd grade levels creating exceptional learning experiences for her students that transcend the walls of her classroom. When she realized that most of her students had never been camping, an activity she loves, Richard marshaled a group of parents and held a camping trip on school grounds, complete with tents, hot dogs, marshmallows and activities—and connected the entire event to the class's reading curriculum. She also brings students together with residents of a local veterans’ home; students serve the veterans dinner and present projects about the wars in which the veterans have served, and the residents share their war stories with the students. The veterans' dinners have become a beloved annual event at Pioneer, a K-6 Title I school.

Richard strives to help all her students reach their full potential. After learning about John Hattie's Visible Learning research, Richard trained her students to create data folders and encouraged them to own their learning. She also seeks out and incorporates new instructional tools like AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), Teach Like a Champion and Engage NY Math. Richard incorporates writing into her lessons to help them build critical thinking and communication skills. She nurtures a culture of continuous improvement and teaches her students to learn from their mistakes along the way. As a result, her students' test scores exceed district and state averages.

A respected leader in the district, Richard helps with new teacher induction and mentoring, led a schoolwide digital portfolio project to help teachers document their teaching practices and student advancement, and heads the grade-level team for the district. Her classroom serves as a model for math instruction and overall management, which is reflected in her students' positive math results. Richard has shared her expertise in Visible Learning and digital portfolios at national conferences around the U.S.

Richard forges strong bonds with students and parents. She throws summer pizza parties for families, includes them in classroom projects, and spends her own time and money building memories for her students. Realizing that some students lack the home support to create costumes for her People of History project, Richard steps in and makes sure everyone is outfitted and prepared. Richard garnered 100% parent participation to receive alerts from Class Dojo, a web-based tool she uses to share information about students' progress.

More information about Richard, 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, Richard'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, 2016-17 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum this spring in New Orleans. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about the importance of 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 program, which includes powerful professional development 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 Awards has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then 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 Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, is in its 30th year. 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.