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Milken Family Foundation Surprises Tacoma Teacher with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

U.S. Senator Patty Murray joins Foundation Co-Founder Mike Milken to present Washington’s 2013-14 “Oscar of Teaching”

The more than 1,400 students and faculty who filled the gymnasium at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington knew, when they saw U.S. Senator Patty Murray arrive, that their schoolwide assembly was not going to be routine.  What they didn’t know was that the Senator and a host of special guests, including Milken Family Foundation Co-Founder Mike Milken, were in attendance to present the surprise of a lifetime, a Milken Educator Award,  to one of Lincoln’s teachers.

When Sen. Murray and Mike Milken announced that Nathan Gibbs-Bowling was Washington’s 2013-14 Milken Educator Award recipient, thunderous cheers erupted.  In a moment’s time, this outstanding educator experienced a fanfare typically reserved for all-star athletes and award-winning entertainers.  He will join up to 40 of America’s most outstanding secondary school educators who will receive the honor this year, and is the only Washington recipient. The national recognition comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize.

Adding their congratulations were Marcie Maxwell, Senior Policy Advisor on Education at Governor Jay Inslee’s office, State Rep. Jake Fey, 27th District, Ken Kanikeberg, Chief of Staff, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Marilyn Strickland, Mayor of Tacoma and Carla Santorno, Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent.

“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

For a man who has been described as a “cheerleader, drill sergeant and professor,” it is no surprise that social studies teacher Nathan Gibbs-Bowling at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, WA is considered the “best teacher in the state” by one of his colleagues. Perhaps equally impressive, though he isn’t a rock star or famous actor, his fans—also known as his students—have lauded his exceptional talents as a dynamic and engaging classroom teacher.

Gibbs-Bowling is known as a demanding teacher, not an “Easy ‘A’,” who is highly respected for his Advanced Placement Government and Advanced Placement Human Geography classes. His students skillfully re-argue famous Supreme Court cases where they develop their critical thinking, literacy and writing skills. An educator with high expectations for students at all levels, he is also an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teacher who presents a senior seminar on successful college applications. Lincoln High School students come from a diversity of backgrounds and achieve an 88% graduation rate with 75% of them accepted to college. Graduates have received over $3 million in scholarships. Gibbs-Bowling lives in the community and strives to prepare young adults who will return to support the neighborhood in which they grew up. Watch Gibbs-Bowling talk about how he inspires his students:

As a founding member of the school’s Professional Development Leadership Team, he mentors teachers in classroom management. He created Teachers United, which researches issues, forms a position and brings education to the fore with community leaders and legislators. His expertise in instructional design is evident in the curriculum he co-developed on Tacoma history and the Washington state history curriculum he wrote based on primary source materials. And now Nathan Gibbs-Bowling has made history himself as his state’s Milken Educator Award recipient for 2013.


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.

Washington Milken Educators

  • Washington joined the Milken Educator Awards program in 1994.
  • $1,175,000 in cash awards has been presented to 47 WA Milken Educator Award recipients.

For More Information

Milken Educator Awards Website:
Mike Milken
Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction Website:
Tacoma Public Schools Website:
Milken Family Foundation

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