Kansas Social Studies Teacher Strikes the Right Note with Instructional Practices, Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award During Nationwide Tour
Blue Valley West High School's Alex Lahasky recognized for creative, effective teaching and exceptional leadership
February 8, 2024
Santa Monica, Calif. — Social studies teacher Alex Lahasky (pronounced Luh-hass-kee) of Blue Valley West High School received the surprise of a lifetime when philanthropist and education visionary Lowell Milken presented him with a national Milken Educator Award and a $25,000 cash prize he can use for any purpose. Lowell Milken created the Awards more than three decades ago to bring public recognition to the important role outstanding educators play in preparing students for a bright future. Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson and U.S. Representative Sharice Davids joined in today's vibrant school assembly to celebrate Lahasky – a Blue Valley West graduate himself – as a model for the state and nation.
"While early in his teaching career, Alex Lahasky has had a profound influence on students, fellow teachers and the greater community. Alex harnesses great lessons in history to build students' knowledge, independence and confidence in their own journey towards self-sufficiency," said Lowell Milken. "Alex's influence extends beyond his classroom to fellow colleagues, student athletes, and to incoming freshmen he welcomes with warmth and enthusiasm."
Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," the Awards will honor up to 75 recipients across the country in 2023-24 as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. 2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to "Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate" the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career.
"Alex is that perfect blend of an innovative mind and a servant’s heart," said Dr. Watson. "The way he brings history to life for his students and invests himself in mentoring new teachers in his building are what make him stand out as an exceptional educator. Congratulations to Alex on this well-deserved recognition."
"As a proud graduate of Kansas public schools, I know firsthand the impact that dedicated teachers have on shaping young minds," said Representative Davids. "I'm honored to join the Milken Family Foundation in celebrating our local educators. These awards serve as a well-deserved recognition of their tireless efforts and the invaluable role they play in our community."
More About Alex Lahasky
Fostering a Global Perspective: Enter Alex Lahasky's 11th grade social studies classroom and become instantly captivated by the creative ways students are delving into history. Lahasky, who walked through Blue Valley West's hallways as a student himself not too long ago, not only ignites a passion for the past, but also establishes meaningful connections to the present. In so doing, he instills in his students the skills to think critically and express themselves confidently as they shape their roles as active, young citizens in a global world.
Igniting Enthusiasm Through Innovation: Eschewing conventional lectures, Lahasky follows the Socratic method, using open-ended questions to stimulate conversation and higher-order inquiry. Specific activities, like a spy simulation during the Cold War unit, bring history to life. Lahasky employs a flipped classroom approach to address learning targets, with students studying his videos at their own pace. Perhaps most notably, Lahasky – also a musician – creates APUSH (AP U.S. History) Mixtapes comprised of his renditions of pop and rap songs that illustrate historical events and the meanings they evoke. Instead of submitting a written summative assessment, students deliver a compelling oral presentation on a contemporary political issue of their choosing, using evidence from the history units they studied. His infusion of writing and literature deepens students’ oral and written skills. As a result, Lahasky has seen a nearly 90% passing rate on the AP exam based on the scores of over 150 students during the past five years. What is more, his overall test average surpasses the state, national and global averages. Students earning college credit increased from 60 to 90% between students taking the AP exam and those choosing dual enrollment through Lahasky's partnership with Baker University.
Advancing Instructional Practices and Mentoring Students: Beyond the classroom, Lahasky serves in leadership roles as the social studies department chair and a formal mentor for new teachers during their first two years of service. He actively engages with incoming freshmen, introducing them to high school life and instilling the school's cornerstones – pride, excellence, grit and family. Lahasky's involvement in the Advisory Leadership Team and regular collaboration with colleagues on soft-skills curricula exemplify his commitment to holistic education. Additionally, he initiated and continues to oversee biweekly meetings for new teachers, equipping them with essential tools for success in their roles. Outside of academic leadership, Lahasky serves as the school’s assistant baseball coach, leveraging his experience as a high school and college athlete to influence and mentor student athletes beyond the confines of the classroom.
Education: Lahasky earned his Bachelor of Science in social science and secondary education in 2014 from William Carey University and a Master of Arts in history in 2016 from Pittsburg State University.
More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: “The Future Belongs to the Educated”
- The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles this June, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.
- Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.
- Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
- The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.
Follow the Milken Educator Awards tour and use the #MEA3K and #MilkenAward hashtags on: Facebook (MilkenEducatorAwards) | X (Milken) | YouTube (MilkenAward) | Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn) | LinkedIn (MilkenFamilyFdn) | TikTok (MilkenAward).
Visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772 for more information.
About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Created by Lowell Milken, 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 Milken Family Foundation celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at MFF.org.