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Virginia Beach Educator Earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Preparing Students for Success in School and Life

Virginia Beach Middle School's Kimberly Collins among more than 60 recipients nationwide with two in Virginia

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

U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona says Milken Educators "personify excellence in education"

May 04, 2022

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Kimberly Collins of Virginia Beach Middle School received the surprise of a lifetime this Teacher Appreciation Week—a $25,000 Milken Educator Award presented by the Milken Family Foundation during a schoolwide assembly with cheering students, colleagues, state and local officials and media. Collins, the school’s first coordinator for Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), was awarded for her dedication to fostering critical thinking and self-confidence for students to succeed in their continued careers in school and life. The Award has been bestowed upon outstanding educators across the country for 35 years with two recipients in Virginia this season. 

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. 

"Kimberly Collins prioritizes her students' needs and creatively adapts her teaching strategies to accommodate them," said Stephanie Bishop, vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 2001 Milken Educator from Virginia. "Today we celebrate Kimberly, welcome her to our national Milken Educator Network and look forward to the value and insights she will bring to an outstanding group of the nation’s best educators." 

"I can't think of a better way to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week than to honor an outstanding Virginia teacher and join with her colleagues, principal, superintendent, school board members and students in celebrating her success and this wonderful recognition from the Milken Family Foundation," Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said. "Kimberly makes a difference in the lives of her students every day. She epitomizes the selflessness, dedication, creativity and commitment to excellence of all of the Virginia teachers we celebrate and recognize this week." 

Oprah, a longtime education advocate, shared her congratulations to this year's recipients in a video message thanking "the most incredible educators around the country" and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the "tireless work" they do. U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona said Milken Educators "personify excellence in education" and "inspire leadership and motivate students to excel." 

More About Kimberly Collins 

Achievement through Student Independence, Ownership of Learning, and Life Skills: Until this year, Collins was an English teacher for sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and prioritized student independence and social emotional learning (SEL) to realize students' full potential. As a classroom teacher, Collins designed rigorous learning plans that challenged students' thinking, encouraged them to take ownership of their learning and included regular goal-setting and opportunities for self-reflection. Collins leverages her talents in her current role to broaden her impact on the school at large. Creating a culture of calm and mutual respect, Collins ensures students are comfortable and engaged, understanding that building relationships with them is crucial to student achievement. 

Navigating New Learning: Her constant focus on student well-being proved essential during the pandemic as Collins looked for creative ways to make sure students learning at home had consistent routines that mirrored an in-class experience. She incorporated breakout rooms for peer collaboration, continued to host Zoom "Lunch Bunch" and constantly sought feedback from students and their families about what was working and where support might be needed. 

School and District Leadership: Collins serves on Virginia Beach Middle School's Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team, which helps to develop the school expectation matrix. She also has coached softball and started an afterschool running club. Collins published a SEL middle school strategy guide as part of her master’s thesis, worked on SEL initiatives with the district's Office of Professional Growth and Innovation, and was the first to receive the new SEL Specialization Badge. 

Education: Collins earned a bachelor's in K-8 education in 2009 from University of Maine at Farmington and a master's in education in 2020 from Saint Joseph's College.

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