Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards

About Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards

Dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher Magazine, the Milken National Educator Awards were created in 1985 to attract, reward and retain the highest caliber professionals to our nation’s schools. Texas has participated in the Milken award program since 2000.

“Nothing in America’s K-12 schools has more influence on student learning than the quality of the classroom teacher,” said Lowell Milken, chairman of the Milken Family Foundation. “Highly effective teachers are the bedrock in constructing a world-class education system that meets our challenges and opportunities in this 21st century. It is a national imperative that we attract, retain and motivate people of talent to the profession. America’s prosperity depends on it.”

Hundreds honored

Since its inception, the Milken Educator Awards have recognized more than 2,600 educators and presented them with more than $64 million in awards to individual educators. To date, 45 Texas educators selected as Milken Educators have collectively received $1.12 million. Milken Educator Award winners are selected based on effective instructional practices and student learning results, exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom, strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership, and serving as a motivational role model for students, colleagues and the community.

They also join the Milken Educator Network, a coalition of top educators who serve both as expert resources and collaborators to network members as they help cultivate and expand innovative programs and practices in their classrooms, schools and districts.

Value of top teachers

Research shows that the most important school-based factor driving student performance is the quality of the classroom teacher. The most effective teachers produce as much as five times the learning gains as the least effective teachers.

More information about the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards.


2021 Texas Milken Award Winner

Emily Dickerson

Emily Dickerson (TX '21)


Grand Prairie High School
Grand Prairie, TX

Subject(s) taught: Mathematics
Grade(s): 9


Biographical Information

Emily Dickerson fosters curiosity, critical thinking skills, and a growth mindset through real-world applications of math. Her algebra students at Texas’ Grand Prairie High School (GPHS) explore exponential functions by studying transmission patterns of COVID-19. When she taught geometry, her students learned to find the midpoint between two points on a coordinate plane by looking at a map of Grand Prairie and calculating the center between the two closest grocery stores. The lesson continued beyond math as the class discussed the concept of “food deserts” and how they might use their findings to advocate to city officials for construction of a community garden or grocery store. Dickerson’s classroom mantra is “Be the change,” encouraging students to make choices each day that will have a positive impact on not only their own futures, but the lives of those around them.

Dickerson creates an inclusive and respectful environment where student data informs every instructional decision. She is never afraid to try new things, adjusting as she discerns student needs. Hoping to improve student performance, Dickerson instituted small group instruction in Algebra I several years ago. By the end of the 2019-20 school year, students were showing tremendous growth, and Dickerson introduced the strategy to the rest of her team. Grand Prairie partners with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), and Dickerson served as a TAP mentor teacher. Now the math department chair, Dickerson turns department meetings into an extension of her classroom, building in activities she hopes colleagues will use with their own classes. During the pandemic, she modeled the use of breakout rooms to raise teachers’ comfort levels with virtual instruction and shared strategies for building relationships during online learning. Dickerson works with student teachers, mentors new educators, serves on the district math leadership team, and leads professional development for the building and district.

Dickerson is on the GPHS site team for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a program that helps build college readiness and increase opportunities for historically underrepresented student communities. To raise the program’s profile and expand the impact of its college-going culture across the campus, Dickerson and colleagues created the “My AVID Is Your AVID” buddy system, encouraging 11th graders in AVID to share learning strategies with their peers. Equity is an important focus of Dickerson’s practice. She is part of the committee that advocates for culturally relevant teaching, tackling issues on how to deliver instruction to the school’s diverse student body. Dickerson partnered with the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity to learn about equitable access to STEM opportunities.

Dickerson earned a bachelor’s in business in 2013 from Baylor University and a master’s in school leadership in 2020 from Southern Methodist University.

Press release: Math Success and Mentorship Equal a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Teacher Emily Dickerson