Meet the 2013 Recipients of the Milken Educator Awards

"We give Grammys to musicians, gold medals to Olympians, Nobels to scientists and others. But we give too little recognition to the people with society's most important job — educators," says Mike Milken, co-founder of the Milken Educator Awards.

Southern California-based philanthropy, the Milken Family Foundation, recently announced the inspiring recipients of the 2013 Educator Awards. The awards are $25,000 each and come in the form of no-strings-attached cash, the very best kind of payment one could ever hope to receive. (Read Milken Family Foundation: Los Angeles Grants).

What makes these teacher awards different from others is that the recipients have no idea what's coming to them."This took me by complete surprise," said Luis Espinosa, who teaches science in Hollywood, Florida. "It definitely validates what you do as an educator."

What many people don't realize is that the Milken Educator Awards originally began as a much smaller recognition program involving just a dozen California teachers. Over the past couple decades, it's grown to become the preeminent teacher recognition program, honoring nearly 2,600 educators and hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching.” 

Candidates for the Milken Educator Awards are selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school;
  • Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession;
  • Individuals whose contributions to education are largely unheralded yet worthy of the spotlight;
  • Early- to mid-career educators who offer strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and
  • Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.

To read about all of the fortunate award recipients' stories, check out the bios on the Milken Award website. Milken is all about the surprise approach and the sneak attack. The paparazzi-style photos and videos of the surprised-to-tears teachers are actually quite moving. Some educators plan to use the $25,000 to pay for classroom upgrades and others to help pay for their Master's degrees. Whatever they choose, Milken trusts they'll use the money to become even better teachers than they were last year.