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TEA News Releases Online February 7, 2017
Somerset ISD teacher earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award

VON ORMY – Governor Greg Abbott and Commissioner of Education Mike Morath today joined Gary Stark, chief executive officer of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, at a surprise ceremony in the Somerset Independent School District to present Amber Simpson with the Milken Educator Award. The Milken Award recognizes exemplary elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

Simpson is a TAP master teacher at Barrera Veterans Elementary School in Von Ormy, a community south of San Antonio in the Somerset ISD. Simpson is the only Texas educator receiving the national award in 2017, which is often referred to as the “Oscars of Teaching.” 

The honor comes with a $25,000 cash prize that Simpson can spend however she chooses.

“Texas schools are filled with some of the best teachers in America who are called to their profession,” said Governor Abbott. “I am proud the Milken Educator Awards has recognized Amber Simpson for her exceptional work in educating our future leaders.” 

“Amber Simpson embodies the quality educators that can be found in Texas classrooms from our large urban areas to our close-knit rural communities,” said Commissioner Morath. “Simpson’s hard work and dedication benefits her students today while strengthening the Texas of tomorrow.”

Barrera Veterans Elementary School, which serves a predominantly Latino high-poverty population, has been implementing TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement for three years through its partnership with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. 

As a TAP master teacher, Simpson works with teachers of students from kindergarten through fourth grade. She helps facilitate weekly professional development meetings, during which she coaches faculty on systematically tracking their students’ progress and developing action plans to reinforce strengths and address areas of improvement. This work is complemented by observing educators in the classroom, modeling and testing new instructional techniques, introducing curriculum and assessing students’ learning along the way. 

Simpson, who served as a team lead and TAP mentor teacher before becoming a master teacher, relishes her role as a resource for her colleagues. In addition to the meaningful guidance that she provides, she makes presentations each year at the orientation for new teachers and hosts several site visits from other TAP schools to share and maximize the impact of effective best practices. Beyond the school, Simpson serves on several district curriculum committees and mentors new TAP master teachers in the district. 

Well-known in the community and respected by parents, Simpson provides one-on-one tutoring for students, with whom she develops long-term relationships. She motivates students to excel in school, encourages them to plan for college and attends their graduation ceremonies. Simpson’s former students return often to Barrera Elementary to share their successes with her. 

Simpson earned a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies in 1999 from Texas State University, and a master’s in educational leadership in 2003 from Concordia University.

“Amber Simpson is an exemplary leader and mentor who works every day to ensure a quality educational opportunity for Barrera Veterans Elementary students,” said Lowell Milken, chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. “I commend Amber for her commitment and thank her for choosing teaching as a career.”

Along with the fanfare and recognition, Simpson now belongs to the Milken Educator Network of more than 2,700 K–12 teachers, principals and specialists from around the country. In Texas, 48 recipients have been presented with the Milken Educator Award since the program began here in 2000.

The Milken Family Foundation first presented the Milken Educator Awards in 1987. Since that time, it has become the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program and was dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine. More than $138 million in funding, including over $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.  

For photos and video of Simpson receiving her Milken Educator Award, visit

For information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit

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