Press Releases

Lowell Milken Surprises Alexandria Teacher with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

March 19, 2024

March 19, 2024


Alexandria, Va.  A typical Tuesday took a surprising turn when Alexandria City High School English teacher Eva Irwin heard her name called to the front of today's schoolwide assembly: "The Milken Educator Award goes to … Eva Irwin!" Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken, alongside State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Lisa Coons, presented Irwin with the prestigious Milken Educator Award in front of cheering students, colleagues, dignitaries and media. The Award includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize that Irwin may use for any purpose. 

"During her short time at Alexandria City High School, Eva Irwin's dedication and leadership are commendable and making a positive impact on students, colleagues and the community," said Lowell Milken. "We are proud to welcome Eva to the Milken Educator Network and look forward to seeing her accomplish even greater things in the future to advance educators and students." 

Irwin is the first Alexandria City Public Schools teacher to receive the Award and was completely unaware of her candidacy. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish. 

"We are blessed with outstanding teachers in Virginia, and Eva Irwin at Alexandria City High School is one of the best in the nation," said Dr. Coons. "It is great to see her receive the recognition she deserves and that we could all celebrate her achievement. She is a great representative for Virginia teachers across the Commonwealth." 

With today's announcement, Irwin joins fellow Virginian Travis Dodds, a science teacher and department chair at Atlee High School in Mechanicsville, who received his Award earlier today. Dodds was also first in his division – Hanover County Public Schools – to receive the Milken Educator Award.       

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.     

More About Eva Irwin  

High Expectations Leads to High Results: Alexandria City High School (ACHS) English teacher Eva Irwin is a natural instructional leader. Her intentionality, positivity, enthusiasm, and solutions-oriented approach help her meet the individual needs of students both in her classroom and throughout the school. In class, Irwin fully immerses students by tying lessons to real-world examples, differentiating instruction to accommodate learning styles and abilities, and continuously interacting with students and soliciting their feedback. Student data informs her decision-making and course of strategy toward mastery of content. In only her first year (2022-23) at ACHS, her impact contributed to notable student achievement growth in English and writing. Seventy-five percent of students passed the state English exam and 82% passed the state writing exam, both up from 68% in 2021-22 and above state and district rates. 

Schoolwide Presence for Students, Faculty: Irwin's commitment to the school community in such a short time has been extraordinary. She thrives on advancing instructional practices, whether it is through leading professional development or volunteering to write new curriculum. Irwin also serves as the substitute assistant principal, the grade 11 English team professional learning community (PLC) lead, the English department's representative on the Staff Advisory Council, a member of the school's Culture and Climate Committee, and chair of an advisory committee working to oversee and improve the school's fourth period block geared towards targeted, needs-based instruction. Students and peers can regularly find her at school events, dedicating her time to after-school functions, and even assisting with cafeteria duty. Her leadership also extends to the court. As an assistant coach, Irwin helped lead the varsity volleyball team to a state championship in 2022 and serves as the head coach for the junior varsity team.   

Innovative Use of Technology Improves Classroom Communication: Irwin uses a variety of tools at her disposal to better support and strengthen relationships with all students and their families. She uses platforms like Parent Square, which offers in-platform translation services for families who are not English-proficient; phone and text applications; and Pear Deck, a presentation tool that allows students to provide her with instant feedback during lessons. Her innovative approach and understanding of students’ unique needs have helped her build trust within her classroom.  

Education: Irwin completed her Bachelor of Arts in child development and education at Washington and Jefferson College in 2014 and earned a Master of Arts in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech in 2021.  

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 philanthropist and education visionary 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