Alumna Michelle Iwasaki of UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School has won a Milken Educator Award and $25,000 to spend however she wishes. Iwasaki is an academic coach at Kalihi Kai Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawaii. At an all-school assembly for what was billed as a visit from Hawaii Governor David Ige, First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige, and Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi, Iwasaki was caught completely by surprise when the officials joined Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley to present her with the prestigious honor.
The Milken Educator Awards, conceived by Lowell Milken to celebrate, elevate, and activate the teaching profession, are the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program, often hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching.”
Michelle Iwasaki (TEP, MST, M.Ed., ’04), the academic coach for kindergarten, first and fifth grades at Kalihi Kai Elementary, trains and mentors Kalihi Kai’s teachers in art integration strategies, conducts professional development, and leads visitations and presentations to other schools. A National Board Certified Teacher, Iwasaki serves on the school’s academic review, arts leadership and literacy grant teams, and shepherded Kalihi Kai through its WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation process in 2018-19. Iwasaki also earned her BA in English at UC Santa Barbara in 2003.
Along with the financial prize, Milken Educator Award recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 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. Over the years, more than $140 million in funding, including $70 million for the individual cash awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.