Press Releases

The Milken Educator Awards Celebrates 30 Years of Teaching Excellence

October 05, 2016



SANTA MONICA, CA — The Milken Educator Awards, the oldest teacher recognition program of its kind in the nation, is celebrating 30 years of surprising teachers with $25,000 unrestricted checks.

The idea started in the early 1980s when Lowell Milken, the chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation (MFF), began exploring strategies for strengthening the education profession. The first Awards were presented to a group of 12 outstanding teachers and administrators in California.

Now Milken Educators are surprised at boisterous schoolwide assemblies coast-to-coast before cheering students, respected colleagues, distinguished officials and the media.   

“Since that first momentous year three decades ago, the Milken Educator Awards has grown to honor more than 2,700 educators,” said Milken. “Our motto is ’the future belongs to the educated.’ We strongly believe that our children and our society depend on having excellent teachers in the classroom. Our goal is to show students how important their teachers are, and to inspire them to consider the classroom for their own careers.”

The prestigious honor, to be presented at up to 40 schools this 2016-17 season, has been described as “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher magazine. More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. 

New recipients are invited to join the Milken Educator Network, a nationwide group of distinguished educators whose expertise serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others shaping the future of education.

Recipients are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Milken Awards are sourced through participating state departments of education and other educational organizations. An independent blue ribbon committee reviews candidates confidentially for recommendations to MFF, which makes the final determination.

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 #MilkenAwardhashtag on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772. 

The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at:

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.