Three Cheers for Sparks Teacher Jason Murray, Recognized as One of America's Best with $25,000 Milken Educator Award
Nevada classroom teacher and soccer coach increases student performance and inspires colleagues at Florence Drake Elementary School
February 7, 2023
Santa Monica, Calif., — Jason Murray, a third and fourth grade teacher and soccer coach at Florence Drake Elementary School in Sparks, Nevada, is a guiding force in helping students succeed along their educational journeys. At a vibrant assembly today, Murray marked a major milestone of his own when he was surprised with a national Milken Educator Award in front of the school community he proudly serves. The recognition, created by Lowell Milken, includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize that Murray can use however he chooses.
Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken presented the national honor, joined by Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone M. Ebert. In addition to today's fanfare, Murray will join a national network of more than 2,900 Milken Educator Award recipients and other leaders from across the country dedicated to strengthening K-12 education.
"Through his active engagement, impressive results and effective leadership in and out of the classroom, Jason Murray is making an indelible impact on students, colleagues and the community," said Lowell Milken. "What's more, Jason has already demonstrated himself as a champion for motivating other capable people to join the profession. It gives me great pleasure to welcome Jason into the national Milken Educator Network of excellence, where he will have the opportunity to expand his reach."
Hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching," Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year's winners' list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the Award.
"I'm thankful we have innovative and dedicated teachers like Jason Murray," said Nevada Superintendent Ebert. "Jason is known for his engaging lessons and strategically using technology to support student learning. Thanks to his hard work and ingenuity, his students are developing the future-ready skills they need. I can't wait to see what he does next."
Since 1987, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers.
More About Jason Murray
Supporting Success for Every Student: For Jason Murray, success means finding the right strategies and academic supports to ensure success for every student. Murray teaches third and fourth grades at Florence Drake Elementary School in Sparks, Nevada, where he designs interactive lessons with embedded technology to keep students engaged. He uses daily formative assessments to gauge understanding and adjusts his instruction as needed. He championed and helped implement "Walk to Learn," a schoolwide effort to support student growth in which teachers work with all students and share ownership of student outcomes. Both Murray's students and the school as a whole have made great strides thanks in part to Murray's work building instructional excellence. Between 2018 and 2022, Drake Elementary's ELA proficiency rose from 48 to 70 percent, and math proficiency rose from 37 to 59 percent. In the 2021-22 school year, Murray's students' math proficiency rate of 82 percent was second-highest among the district's Title I elementary schools. These results contributed to Drake Elementary's achievement as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2022.
School Leadership: Known as a collaborative colleague and role model, Murray has served as a mentor teacher, works with student teachers, and earned an endorsement in gifted and talented education. He sits on Drake's leadership, reading week and field day committees and helps plan schoolwide events. Murray has showcased math instructional strategies for district principals and supports recruiting efforts to help build the district’s educator pipeline. As Drake's soccer coach, Murray reminds students that they must be quality learners before they can be successful student athletes. The team has reached the district championship for the past two years.
Family Connections: Murray builds strong relationships with students and families, intent on understanding each child’s strengths, weaknesses, likes and interests. He communicates regularly with parents through Classroom Dojo and email. Students trust him and know he is focused on their well-being, both academic and emotional.
Education: Murray earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education in 2003 from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a Master of Education in 2007 from Grand Canyon University.
More About the Milken Educator Awards: "The future belongs to the educated."
Along with the financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,900 and growing of exemplary teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.
- The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles this April, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.
- In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFF) mentoring program, in which new Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice.
- Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
- "We find you. You don't find us!" Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.
- The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.
To receive regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events or to watch the Award events unfold, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook (@MilkenEducatorAwards), Twitter (@Milken), YouTube (/MilkenAward), Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn), and TikTok (@MilkenAward).
For more information, visit MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.
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.