SURPRISE! FRESNO TEACHER RECEIVES $25,000
MILKEN NATIONAL EDUCATOR AWARD
Lowell Milken, CA Superintendent Jack O’Connell and Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael E. Hanson stun Lou Xiong at Balderas Elementary School
Fresno, CA (November 16, 2010)—A seemingly routine schoolwide assembly at Balderas Elementary School in Fresno turned into the surprise of a lifetime for fourth-grade teacher Lou Xiong (pronounced “Jhong”), who was honored today as a recipient of the Milken Educator Award. The prestigious national recognition from the Milken Family Foundation comes with a no-strings-attached cash prize of $25,000. Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael E. Hanson were among the leaders who participated in the surprise celebration.
Dubbed “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher Magazine, the Milken Educator Awards program was conceived by Lowell Milken to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and encourage talented young people to enter the teaching profession. Unlike most teaching awards, the Milken Educator Awards have no formal nomination or application process. Each year exceptional teachers, principals and specialists—recommended without their knowledge by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by each state’s department of education—are surprised with the news of their awards.
“Our society’s most important profession is teaching as it informs all others,” said Lowell Milken. “We created the Milken Educator Awards to proclaim in a very public way that greatness in education must be recognized and rewarded. Lou Xiong embodies this message intended for entire communities, policymakers, students who may be inspired to enter the profession, and for our nation’s K-12 educators themselves.”
There is a waiting list to gain entry into Lou Xiong’s class. At a school where 96 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, Xiong’s thriving classroom is proof that even in the most challenging environments, students can achieve at high levels. Like many of her students, English was not Xiong’s first language, and she stands before her students as a testament to the fact that they can achieve anything with hard work and dedication.
At the beginning of the year, Xiong tells her new class that they are expected to work extremely hard to reach the levels of academic gains she has set for them. In 2009, 75 percent of her students scored proficient or advanced on the math portion of the California Standards Tests (CSTs), and in 2010, more than 90 percent scored proficient in math. Xiong strives to improve learning throughout her school and district as well. She created new fourth-grade pacing guidelines that are now used in classrooms throughout the district. She welcomes teachers to observe her teaching practices and demonstrates math lessons districtwide. Xiong also serves on the superintendent’s task force, as grade-level representative and is a member of the school leadership team.
Since first presented in 1987 to a dozen California teachers, the Milken Educator Awards has grown to become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program having honored more than 2,500 teachers, principals and specialists with over $62 million in individual, unrestricted $25,000 awards. In addition to the cash awards, new recipients have the opportunity 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. They also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles in the spring to participate in the Milken Educator Forum. The Forum brings together Award-winning educators from across the nation to address innovative strategies for advancing teacher effectiveness. The Awards alternate each year between elementary and secondary educators.