Monroe Co. Teacher Among More than 50 of America’s Best to be Surprised with $25,000 Milken National Educator Awards

October 21, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia educator was honored Wednesday by the Milken Family Foundation for her exceptional contributions to quality education. James Monroe High School English teacher April Hobson is this year’s Milken Award recipient. James Monroe High School is located in Monroe County.

The award, which provides public recognition and an unrestricted financial award of $25,000 to teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education, alternates each year between elementary and secondary educators. New recipients are taken completely by surprise during schoolwide assemblies overflowing with proud students, colleagues, and an entourage of distinguished officials and media. In a moment’s time, these unsung heroes gain celebrity status and, as one of last year’s awe-struck recipients said, “I feel like I’ve won an Academy Award and the lottery!”

“Teachers have the most important jobs in America,” said Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken. “We entrust them with the enormous responsibility of preparing our young people with the skills, knowledge and experiences needed to be successful in a most challenging 21st century. The Milken Educator Awards say, in a very public way, that greatness in education must be recognized and rewarded.”

Hobson has been teaching more than six years. Her journey to the classroom inspires both students and colleagues. A tumultuous home life forced Hobson to drop out of school at the age of 17. It wasn’t until her own children were in the Monroe County School System that she went back to get her GED. Hobson went on to get her teaching degree and certification. She says her greatest contribution to education is bringing her whole self to the task of shaping the lives of young people.

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

Including this year’s selections, since its inception, the Milken Educator Awards have recognized more than 2,400 educators with more than $60 million. The 2009 recipients will receive their $25,000 checks during the Milken National Education Conference held in Los Angeles next spring. They also will join the Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,400 distinguished educators, whose expertise serves as a valuable resource to fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others shaping the future of education.

Award Criteria:

Unlike most teaching awards, the Milken Educator Awards have no formal nomination or application process. Educators are recommended for this prestigious honor without their knowledge by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by each state’s department of education.

Candidates for the Milken Educator Awards are selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school;
  • Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession;
  • Strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and
  • Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards and the surprise notification events held throughout the United States, please contact the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4775 or visit, or the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.

Lowell Milken has been an education reform leader for more than two decades. In addition to creating the Milken Educator Awards to recognize teacher talent, he established the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP)™ as a complementary initiative to develop more highly effective teachers through comprehensive, research-based reform. TAP has expanded to over 180 campuses since its launch in 1999, impacting more than 60,000 students and 5,000 teachers. In 2005 Lowell established the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, an independent public charity, to operate TAP and the Teacher Quality Best Practices Center with the goal of a quality teacher for every classroom in America.

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