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Surprise! Honolulu Teacher Leader Jade Pham Receives National Milken Educator Award and $25,000 Cash Prize

Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken, joined by Gov. Josh Green, Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke and State Superintendent Keith Hayashi, presents "Oscar of Teaching"

April 8, 2024

Santa Monica. Calif. — Aloha, Hawaii! The national Milken Educator Awards tour touched down in Honolulu, Hawaii, today to honor Jade Pham, TA vice principal and student services coordinator at Prince David Kawananakoa Middle School. Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken – joined by Governor Josh Green, Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke and State Superintendent of Education Keith Hayashi – surprised Pham with the prestigious honor before cheering students, proud colleagues, local dignitaries and media. The Award comes with a cash prize of $25,000 that Pham may use for any purpose. 

"We are proud to recognize Jade Pham for her dedication to advancing student growth, mentoring teachers and forging strong relationships with parents and families," said Lowell Milken. "Jade's leadership early in her career is impressive and demonstrates her potential to positively impact the community and profession for years to come. We welcome Jade to the Milken Educator Network and thank her for making education her chosen career."

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. 

"Jade is an outstanding teacher who advocates for every student and works diligently to create high-quality learning opportunities for all grade levels at Kawānanakoa," Superintendent Hayashi said. "Her engagement with her fellow teachers has created processes to improve students' academic and personal growth through data-driven problem solving and project-based learning. Her dedication to mentoring her colleagues and to improving student outcomes has elevated the entire school and we are truly grateful to have an exceptional educator like Jade on our team." 

Pham was completely unaware of her candidacy for the Award. Recipients are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the Award. 

More about Jade Pham 

Leader by Example: When students walk into Prince David Kawananakoa Middle School (KMS), they are expected to uphold its 3Rs: respect, responsibility and resiliency. With teacher leaders like Jade Pham, these middle schoolers have role models who personify these characteristics every day. Pham's role as TA vice principal and student services coordinator is not only a vocation, but also is spurred by a volition to pay it forward to the community that raised her. Born in Vietnam, Pham immigrated to Hawaii with her family as a young girl. She completed her schooling in the Kaimuki complex area, working her way through Kaimuki High School and graduating from college in Oregon before returning to Kaimuki High to begin her career as a special education and general education teacher. 

Advocate for All Students: Pham moved to KMS in 2021, teaching special education and social studies before stepping into her coordinator position in 2022-23. Now she provides direct support to the classrooms to ensure a high-quality educational opportunity for all students – coordinating targeted interventions and school-level collaborative processes to improve students' academic and personal growth. Leading implementation of the Hawaii Multi-Tiered System of Support (HMTSS), Pham engages fellow faculty in data-based problem-solving and inquiry-based learning; project-based learning; Socratic Seminars; computer science integration; assessment strategies, social-emotional learning and meeting the needs of special education students and students with disabilities. Thanks in part to her advocacy, the proportion of special education students moving into the general education classrooms has increased significantly. 

Teacher Mentor: Always one to go the extra mile, it is not unusual for Pham to be seen providing students with one-on-one instruction outside of the classroom, even initiating home visits when needed. Beyond the curriculum, Pham inspires students to become "life-ready" by incorporating college and career exploration opportunities into her work, even taking a group of 35 students to Japan. Both novice and experienced KMS teachers seek her out guidance, and Pham regularly communicates with parents about how to effectively advocate for their students. 

Commitment to School and Community: Pham's other leadership roles include school leadership committee member, special education department facilitator, and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) assessment focus group chair. She also works with her graduate school alma mater, the University of Hawaii, on its special education teacher education committee, and advises KMS' award-winning esports club. 

Education: Pham graduated from Corban University with a Bachelor of Science in political science in 2017 and completed her Master of Education in Teaching in 2019 at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

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 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 philanthropist and education visionary 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