Press Releases

2022 2021 2020 2019

Business is booming at Pacifica High School: Aaron Ferguson surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award!

Ferguson trains future entrepreneurs in Pacifica’s Academy of Business program

October 12, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Science and business have a lot in common: Each is analytical, research-based and innovative. Characteristics also regularly found in Aaron Ferguson's classroom. As a science teacher, director of the Academy of Business and frequent commentator on Pacifica High School's TV channel, Ferguson emphasizes another factor: Be ready for college and career. Yet, he wasn't ready for a surprise of his own today.

During a raucous school assembly with more than 3,000 students in attendance, Ferguson received the Milken Educator Award from Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken with California Deputy Superintendent (Performance, Planning, and Technology) Keric Ashley and Oxnard Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Penelope DeLeon present for the festivities.

Ferguson is the second and final recipient from California, and is among up to 45 honorees who will receive this national recognition and unrestricted $25,000 cash prize for 2017-18. The last Milken Educator recipient from Oxnard Union High School District was in 1999.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, “The future belongs to the educated.”

Building community relationships and securing program sponsors, Ferguson's students collaborate with local businesses and convert their classroom learning into productive hands-on capabilities. Many of his students become summer interns and most are inspired to pursue challenging business careers - significant, considering 78% of the student body are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and many face personal challenges outside of school.

"Aaron Ferguson's interests go beyond the classroom – he's preparing his students to compete in the real world. They graduate grounded with 21st century skills ready to seize the opportunities that lie ahead," said Lowell Milken. "Exposing students to business and entrepreneurship is key to developing a creative workforce that builds our nation's future growth. The Milken family welcomes Aaron as a leader in priming America's youth for the global marketplace."

"Congratulations to Aaron for receiving the wonderful Milken Educator Award and providing an outstanding example for teachers all over the great state of California," said Keric Ashley. "Students, fellow teachers, staff, administrators, and parents clearly appreciate the efforts this terrific teacher does day in and day out at this school. It’s truly great to join you and say thank you for everything you do."

"The Oxnard Union High School District is thrilled to have a recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award. As Superintendent, I am continuously impressed with the hard work, dedication and extraordinary dedication of our teachers. Our teachers go above and beyond every day to ensure our students receive educational opportunities that connect them to the world beyond the classroom and prepare them for college and career," said Penelope DeLeon. "We are so proud that Aaron is the first Milken Educator selected in our district in some time, and thank the Milken Foundation for recognizing our teacher through this award."

About Milken Educator Aaron Ferguson
In the Academy of Business at Oxnard's Pacifica High School, Ferguson creates real-life learning experiences for students within the local business community, inspiring those of all ability levels to pursue challenging careers in business and preparing them to hit the ground running after high school and college. Through a partnership with Friends of Channel Islands Harbor, students in the “school within a school” Academy have created social media platforms to help local businesses market their services, yielding experience, connections and multiple summer internships in the process.

Ferguson puts students in the driver's seat through project-based learning, emphasizing collaborative group work. His high standards and contagious can-do spirit increase both motivation and confidence for all students in the Academy. Ferguson's students have delivered impressively under his care. Participation and enrollment in AP and honors courses are up, and Academy students perform well on state assessments, and have high A-G completion rates (A-G courses are required for admission to California state universities). Last year, every student in the Academy of Business cohort graduated, despite a litany of family and other issues. Almost all are now in college.

Ferguson is a visible presence at Pacifica, an impressive feat on a campus of 3,000 students. He coordinates the “Win the Day Wednesday” segment on Pacifica's daily live television broadcast, passing on college and career readiness information to the entire student body. Ferguson is also the senior class advisor, organizing important events like the senior barbecue and Grad Night. Because of Ferguson's influence, both students and staff at Pacifica use Instagram and Twitter to showcase school projects and events and reinforce the school's positive, college-bound culture. Ferguson coaches lacrosse; coordinates the Triton Transition program, through which older students mentor incoming freshmen to smooth their entry into high school; and is starting a social entrepreneurship program within the Academy of Business.

A former geological sciences consultant, Ferguson teaches ninth-grade Earth Science at Pacifica and geology at the local community college in addition to running the Academy. He serves as a Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) coach, has led his grade-level team within the science department, mentors new teachers, sits on the district's technology and career pathways committees, and has served as a site technology coach for his colleagues. Staff members consider him a natural leader and gravitate to him for advice, help and exemplary lessons.

Ferguson holds a bachelor's in geology from California Lutheran University (2007) and a master's in geosciences from Mississippi State University (2014).

More information about Ferguson, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

Alexis King, an English teacher at Ruben S. Ayala High School in Chino Hills, California, received her Milken Award in October 2017. Learn more about King here:

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Ferguson's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top principals, teachers and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2017-18 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 21-24, 2018. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children's education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at, and

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 30 years ago in 1987. 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.

Sabrina Skacan
Media Relations Manager
310-570-4773 Office 310-989-5875 Cell