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Milken Family Foundation Surprises Portland Public Schools Teacher with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Foundation Co-Founder Mike Milken & Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton present Oregon’s “Oscar of Teaching” to Teresa Chan Seidel of Robert Gray Middle School

Teresa Chan Seidel, a sixth-grade math teacher at Robert Gray Middle School in Portland, Oregon was surprised this afternoon with an unrestricted $25,000 Milken Educator Award,, during a school-wide assembly. This prestigious 2013-14 honor, presented by Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton and Milken Family Foundation Co-Founder Mike Milken, is the only one to be awarded in Oregon.

“The idea behind these Awards is that everyone likes to hand out prizes to our heroes,” said Mike Milken. “We give Grammys to musicians, gold medals to Olympians, Nobels to scientists and others. But we give too little recognition to the people with society’s most important job – educators. Nothing assures the success of a nation more than education; and nothing assures the quality of education more than dedicated classroom teachers instilling a love of learning and sense of wonder in their students.”

About the Award Recipient

Sixth-grade math teacher Teresa Chan Seidel's challenging upbringing as the daughter of Asian immigrants inspired her commitment to closing the achievement gap for students of color with high expectations for all. Her class is a space where students of any nationality and culture feel empowered to learn. Through collaborative and specialized teaching techniques that play into students' academic and cultural strengths, Seidel has developed a nuanced approach to learning that draws from her personal experience, and has earned her an outstanding reputation.

To meet the goals of Robert Gray’s incoming expansion to its student body, Seidel introduced teachers to the “5 Questions to Ask Your Students of Color” guide. Created from her years of experience, it will surely come in handy for the substantial increase to the school's diversity. So, too, will her “Snapshots’' questionnaire, a series of personal questions students answer on the first day of class to build bonds between their diverse backgrounds. Both are examples of how Seidel considers the roots of her students in conjunction with curriculum. This engagement is why students willingly spend their lunches doing math homework in her classroom and nominate her as the teacher with the most "swag." It's also why her students receive prestigious awards like the Young, Gifted, and Black award.

Seidel's efforts outside the classroom are equally as important to her approach. Engaging the families of her students, she keeps in contact, if necessary, throughout the course of the academic year. The food backpack program Seidel launched provides lunches for the most financially needy, supporting them so they can develop academically. Programs such as these are why Seidel was recruited to teach at Robert Gray Middle School, and why everyone from her principal to co-workers, predicts that Teresa Chan Seidel will remain committed to her mission of balancing the achievement gap.


The Milken Educator Awards, conceived to attract, retain and motivate outstanding talent to the teaching profession, is the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program, dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher Magazine. Since 1987, the Milken Family Foundation, co-founded by Michael and Lowell Milken, has devoted more than $136 million in funding to the Milken Educator Awards, including over $64 million in individual Awards to nearly 2,600 recipients plus powerful professional development opportunities and networking with leading education stakeholders.

Oregon Milken Educators

  • Oregon joined the Milken Educator Awards program in 1990.
  • $1,850,000 in cash awards has been presented to 74 Oregon Milken Educator Award recipients.

For More Information

Milken Educator Awards Website:
Mike Milken
Oregon Department of Education Website:
Tacoma Public Schools Website:
Milken Family Foundation

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