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Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award

Milken Award
The Milken Family Foundation was established in 1982. Since then, the Foundation has worked with more than 1,000 organizations in countless ways to share its purpose of discovering inventive ways of helping people help themselves and those around them to lead productive and satisfying lives.

Recipients of the award are selected by an independent blue-ribbon committee appointed by each state’s department of education. Predetermined criteria for the award include exceptional educational talent and promise; distinguished achievement in developing innovative educational curricula, programs and/or teaching methods; outstanding ability to instill in students character and self-confidence, and commitment to professional development.

SOURCE: Milken Family Foundation  External Link



Salem Teacher Surprised with Milken Educator Award and $25,000 Cash

The 2014 “Oscar of Teaching” Presented by Milken Family Foundation Is Sole Oregon Recipient

(Salem, Ore.) —First grade teacher Julie Cleave won the prestigious 2014 Milken Educator Award for the state of Oregon and $25,000 during a morning assembly at Hallman Elementary School in Salem Thursday.

Cleave is one of up to 40 recipients across the country this school year who will be receiving the honor during the 2014–15 season and the only one in Oregon. The Milken Award recognizes exemplary elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education. The award comes with an unrestricted financial prize of $25,000.

Along with the recognition typically bestowed to recipients, Cleave now belongs to a network of more than 2,600 K–12 teachers, principals, and specialists from around the country.

During an assembly at the school today, Cleave was presented her award by Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a Milken recipient herself, and Deputy State Superintendent Rob Saxton.

“It is my great pleasure to join with the Milken Family Foundation in honoring Julie Cleave for her incredible passion and commitment to education in our state,” said Saxton. “Julie believes that all of her students—regardless of race, home language, or family income—are capable of great things. She has chosen to work where she believes she can make the most difference in students’ lives. I would like to congratulate Julie on this incredible, and well-deserved, honor.”

Cleave, who teaches in one of the most challenged schools in Oregon, works tirelessly to provide the stability and creativity that her students need to get their young lives off to the best possible start. Seventy-four percent of Hallman students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and difficulties such as poverty, homelessness, or an incarcerated parent are not uncommon. But Cleave is not deterred and meets children where they are, academically and developmentally. She helps them to exceed all expectations whether they have special needs, are English Language Learners, or just need an academic boost.

“Cleave is recognized as a leader who helps create an atmosphere of success for everyone in the building," said Foley. "She is a sought-after mentor and valued for her ability to be kind and fair when making decisions or giving counsel. She is a valuable person to join our network of Milken Educators.”

Although students often enter her class performing below grade-level, by the end of the school year most are reading and doing math at their proper grade level. This sets them on a path of ongoing success and gives them confidence that they can learn and achieve.

Cleave goes above and beyond in other ways, too. When she noticed that many girls in her school were struggling with self-esteem issues, she organized Girls on the Run, a program to build self-esteem and a commitment to exercise. Literally going the extra mile, Cleave trained to do a 5K with them. She paired each child with a “buddy” and coordinated volunteers and donations of running shoes and clothes.

After serving as an instructional coach for a time, Cleave elected to return to the classroom because she missed interactions with students—and her students are glad that she did.

Alternating yearly between elementary and secondary educators, the Awards are sourced through each participating state department of education, which appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to confidentially review candidates for recommendation to MFF.

Past recipients have used their Awards to finance their children’s education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships, and even funded the adoption of children.

Oregon joined the Milken Educator Awards program in 1990 and there have been 76 recipients since the program began there.

Julie Cleave in the News


  • Salem Teacher Julie Cleave wins $25,000 for exceptional work with students- December 11, 2014 (Oregonian)
  • Salem Teacher wins $25,000 Milken Educator Award- December 11, 2014 (Statesman Journal)
  • Salem Teacher Wins Milken Award- December 12, 2014 (OPB)





  • Portland Public Schools Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

    PORTLAND, OR — When cheers erupted this afternoon in the gymnasium of Robert Gray Middle School in Portland, Oregon, they were in honor of Teresa Chan Seidel, a sixth-grade math teacher, who was surprised with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award. Joining Milken Family Foundation Co-Founder Michael Milken for the surprise announcement were Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton and Portland Public Schools (PPS) Superintendent Carole Smith. One of education’s most prestigious recognitions, the Award comes with a no-strings-attached cash prize of $25,000.

    “The idea behind these Awards is that everyone likes to hand out prizes to our heroes,” said Michael Milken. “We give Grammys to musicians, gold medals to Olympians, Nobel prizes to scientists and others. But we give too little recognition to the people with society’s most important job – educators. Nothing assures the success of a nation more than education; and nothing assures the quality of education more than dedicated classroom teachers instilling a love of learning and sense of wonder in their students.”

    Sixth-grade math teacher Teresa Chan Seidel's challenging upbringing as the daughter of Asian immigrants inspired her commitment to closing the achievement gap for students of color with high expectations for all. Her class is a space where students of any nationality and culture feel empowered to learn. Through collaborative and specialized teaching techniques that play into students' academic and cultural strengths, Seidel has developed a nuanced approach to learning that draws from her personal experience and has earned her an outstanding reputation.

    “I am honored to join with Mike Milken and Carole Smith in recognizing this outstanding young educator,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “Teresa is an educational leader with a strong commitment to equity, high standards for all students, and a passion for closing the academic achievement gap. She is the type of educator our state and nation needs as we work to improve education and provide all of our kids with a bright and promising future.”

    The student demographics at Robert Gray Middle School are changing, and Seidel has been key to helping staff prepare to support a more racially and economically diverse student population. Seidel introduced staff to tools and resources such as her “5 Questions to Ask Your Students of Color” guide and her “Snapshots” questionnaire, a series of personal questions students answer on the first day of class to build bonds between their diverse backgrounds. Both are resources designed to help foster a welcoming school environment that honors diversity as a strength and gives both teachers and students tools to discuss issues such as race, culture, and identity. This deep personal connection with her students is why students willingly spend their lunches doing math homework in her classroom and nominate her as the teacher with the most "swag." It's also why her students receive prestigious awards like the Young, Gifted, and Black award.

    Seidel's commitment to her students extends well beyond the classroom. She makes a point of connecting with her students’ families throughout the year so that both students and parents see her as an ally and a resource. Seidel also knows that some of her students come from homes that struggle to put food on the table, so she launched a food backpack program which provides nutritious food for those in need, supporting them so they can develop academically. Programs such as these are why Seidel was recruited to teach at Robert Gray Middle School, and why everyone from her principal to co-workers predict that Teresa Chan Seidel will remain committed to her mission of closing the achievement gap and supporting academic and personal success for each and every student in her school.

    “It is rewarding to us as a school district when talented educators like Teresa Seidel are recognized for their outstanding teaching,” said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith. “I am pleased for Teresa and know that her hard work will have an impact on her students for years to come.”

    This recognition is not intended as a lifetime achievement award. Recipients are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish in the future. Milken Educators point to their Award as a pivotal milestone. Encompassed in the recognition is the responsibility to stretch their professional practices and leadership to even higher levels.

    Hailed by Teacher Magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” what separates this Award from others is that the recipients have no idea that they will be honored. Not only is the entire selection process confidential, but so is the real purpose of the school-wide assemblies where the Awards are presented. The Awards story doesn’t end with the surprise notification. New recipients are invited to join the Milken Educator Network, a group of distinguished educators whose expertise serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards, and others shaping the future of education.

    The Milken Family Foundation has been recognizing and rewarding the noble profession of teaching through the Milken Educator Awards for 26 years. Since first presented to a dozen California teachers, the Awards have grown to become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program having honored more than 2,500 K-12 teachers, principals, and specialists with over $63 million in individual, unrestricted $25,000 awards. More than $135 million in funding has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout the recipients’ careers in education. The exponential impact of Milken Educators is helping to improve American K-12 education.

    The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Each participating state department of education appoints an independent blue ribbon committee to review candidates that are sourced through a confidential selection process and recommend candidates to the Foundation.

    To learn more about the Milken Family Foundation, go to: http://www.mff.org/mea/.


    Teresa Chan Seidel in the News


  • Mike Milken Surprises Math Teacher Teresa Chan Seidel with $25,000 Award- April 15, 2014
  • Robert Gray Middle School teacher wins $25,000 through Milken Educator Award, April 16, 2014 (Oregonian)
  • Portland Math Teacher Receives Milken Educator Award, April 15, 2014 (OPB)
  • Robert Gray teacher earns prestigious award, April 15, 2014 (KGW)


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