In late 2016 and in early 2017, I spent a several days over the course of six weeks traveling throughout the southeast again working with the Milken Family Foundation photographing the Milken Educator Awards. I worked with this incredible foundation previously in 2015 for the same event.
What are the Milken Educator Awards? An initiative of the Milken Family Foundation, founded by Lowell Milken, the awards honors up-and-coming educators around the country and awards each with a $25,000 unrestricted cash prize. In the words of Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president, Milken Educator Awards, at the Milken Family Foundation, who won the award herself for the state of Indiana in 1994, "Movies has the Oscar's, music has the Grammy's, science has the Nobel Prize and sports has its gold medals. We have the Milken Educator Awards." Teacher magazine calls it, "The Oscars of Teaching."
For 30 years, the Milken Educator Awards has recognized and rewarded excellence in education by honoring, and surprising (more on that below) top educators around the country in a very public way. To date, more than 2,700 Awards have been given out, totaling $68 million. Once an educator wins this award, their careers in education will never be the same.
Simply put, this is an absolutely wonderful event to photograph. The winners have NO idea they've won until their names are called. No one knows. Not the students, not even the rest of the faculty have any idea what's about to happen. Only a select few administrators knows who wins. An educator cannot apply to receive this award. You don't find them, they find you. As you will see below, some of their reactions range from shock, to utter joy to disbelief.
Below are some of my favorites moments from each state I photographed: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi.
I am really looking forward to working with The Milken Family Foundation again this year.