Milken Family Foundation, Lt. Governor Bysiewicz, Commissioner Russell-Tucker Surprise Elaine Hill with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

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Waterbury, C.T. (January 12, 2023) — Fourth grade teacher Elaine Hill was surprised this morning with one of the nation’s top education awards – the Milken Educator Award – and a check for $25,000 to spend however she wishes. In front of a vibrant school assembly earlier today, Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz and Connecticut Commissioner of Education Charlene M. Russell-Tucker presented Hill with the prestigious recognition and the unrestricted cash prize.


Hill, a fourth grade teacher at the Academic Academy, a school-within-a-school for gifted fourth through eighth grade students at Michael F. Wallace Middle School in Waterbury, is among up to 40 elementary educators across the nation who will receive the Milken Educator Award during the 2022-2023 school year. On top of today’s celebration, she will have the opportunity to join the national Milken Educator Network of more than 2,900 exceptional K-12 educators and leaders across the country. Honorees receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles this April.


“One of the primary qualities of a Milken Educator is excellence in the classroom, and as a founding member of the Academic Academy with wraparound support, Elaine Hill’s challenging programming and high expectations have helped students reach their greatest potential,” said Dr. Foley, who is herself a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. “Congratulations, Elaine! We at the Milken Family Foundation look forward to seeing what the future holds for you and your career as an educator.”


The Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year’s winners’ list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced.


“The Connecticut State Department of Education is so proud to join the Milken Family Foundation and the entire Waterbury community to honor and congratulate Ms. Elaine Hill for her dedication to her students and the craft of teaching,” said Russell-Tucker. “Ms. Hill’s dedication to innovative practices and programs, as a founding member of the Academic Academy at Wallace Middle School in Waterbury, has been critical to exposing her students to unique, challenging, and life-changing opportunities to experience the world beyond their neighborhoods.”


Since the initiative’s inception in 1987, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.


More About Elaine Hill


Founding Member of Gifted Student Program: Hill lays a solid foundation for her fourth graders, setting them up for success. Hill is a founding member of the Academic Academy, a school-within-a-school for fourth through eighth grades housed within Michael F. Wallace Middle School in Waterbury, Connecticut. A full-day challenging program for excelling students founded in 2019, the Academy includes an after-school program that keeps most of Hill’s students with her until 4:50 p.m. four days a week — wraparound time that has been critically important as the school recovers from pandemic learning disruptions. Hill holds high expectations and advocates for all students. Her students fashion communication devices during STEM lessons and exchange letters with students in Texas through a pen pal program, offering opportunities to experience the world beyond their backyards. Hill’s students show notable achievement and growth. In 2021-22, 94% of students read on or above grade level by midyear; in math, students on or above grade level rose from 29% at the beginning of the year to 53% at midyear. On the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Hill’s students scored among the highest in the district.


Creativity in the Classroom: Hill’s innovative weekly student mentoring program has been highlighted on local news programs, showcasing her seventh and eighth graders’ work with fourth and fifth graders on projects like building LEGO robots. After Hill’s class discussed the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and watched videos of his speeches, students wrote essays about the civil rights hero, with one earning top honors in an essay contest sponsored by Connecticut U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. After Hill’s class discussed the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and watched videos of his speeches, students wrote essays about the civil rights hero, with one earning top honors in an essay contest sponsored by Connecticut U.S. Senator Chris Murphy.


Using Technology to Build Community: Hill places a priority on building community among students and with families. During the pandemic, she found unique ways to include families in their children’s learning at home. Hill uses technology so parents can join the classroom virtually when students present projects and is a frequent contributor to Parent Square, the school’s home on social media. Former students often stop by Hill’s classroom to thank her for her ongoing encouragement and support.



Education: Hill earned a Bachelor of Arts in history and social science from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2017 and a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Saint Joseph in 2020.

More About the Milken Educator Awards: “The future belongs to the educated.”

Along with the financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,900 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.

  • The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles this April, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. 
  • In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFF) mentoring program, in which new Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice. 
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels. 
  • “We find you. You don’t find us!” Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation. 
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.  


To receive regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the Award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward).


For more information, visit or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.




About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at

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