Press Releases

2024 2023 2022 2021

Lowell Milken Surprises Hanover County Public Schools Teacher with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Atlee High School science teacher Travis Dodds is division's first recipient in Awards' history

March 19, 2024

Mechanicsville, Va. A state visit to recognize Atlee High School's achievements culminated with an additional honor for one unsuspecting educator! Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken traveled from California to present science teacher and department chair Travis Dodds with a national Milken Educator Award in front of Governor Glenn Youngkin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Lisa Coons, students, colleagues, local dignitaries and media. The Award includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize that Dodds may use however he chooses. Dodds, an alumnus of Atlee High School himself, is the first Hanover County Public Schools teacher to receive the prestigious honor. 

"Virtually all of us can point to an outstanding teacher who ignited our passion for learning and the confidence to pursue life's opportunities. Travis Dodds instills in his students a love of science and the skills, knowledge and experiences to succeed in a rapidly changing world," said Lowell Milken. "The Milken Educator Award is a testament to his outstanding commitment to excellence, profound influence on students, and potential for leadership in the profession for decades to come."    

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.     

"As we work to elevate the work of Virginia's teachers across the Commonwealth, Travis Dodds is a top example of the great work being done in Virginia classrooms. A fantastic science teacher, his commitment is demonstrated outside the classroom and throughout the division," said Dr. Coons. "This national recognition is a great reflection on Travis and I'm excited we can be here today to join in highlighting his excellent work." 

Dodds was completely unaware of his 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 Travis Dodds  

Strong, Visible Leadership: It's not often that high school students want to linger in their science classes, but in Travis Dodds' classroom, that's exactly what happens. Dodds' AP biology, anatomy, and physiology classes at Atlee High School (AHS) are in such high demand that school administrators had to increase the number of classes available to students. An alumnus of AHS himself, Dodds' calm demeanor, kindness, attentiveness, and collaborative leadership are assets to students and faculty alike. These qualities contribute greatly to a robust science department of which Dodds leads, with high pass rates on Virginia's Standards of Learning assessments and a notable ten-year-high on the AP biology pass rate of 74%, which exceeded the national rate (64%). 

Hands-On Science Curriculum Inspires Students: In the classroom, Dodds provides opportunities for his students to connect to the material through innovative, real-world approaches to the curriculum, extending their scientific learning far beyond his classroom walls. With the mindset of a lifelong learner, Dodds engages in professional development and cross-curricular instruction to optimize learning opportunities for his students while advancing his own instructional practices and those of others. 

Limitless Commitment to AHS and Division at Large: Dodds' commitment to the AHS community knows no bounds, whether he is leading professional development, guiding teachers, communicating with parents, providing meaningful feedback, or even assisting with bus duty. In his science department leadership role, Dodds works to ensure that his team's work is rooted in data analysis and that there is access to valuable professional learning activities that raise achievement and promote continuous improvement. Serving as a National Honor Society co-sponsor, Dodds not only impacts one of AHS' largest student organizations, but also all four of the school division's high school NHS chapters. His efforts to align best practices and standards across these chapters and to provide professional learning throughout the division benefit students and colleagues alike. The NHS chapter at AHS leads the school division with the highest number of students inducted and service hours recorded. Dodds' involvement is amplified through active membership on the school leadership team and the AP action team. Previously, he led the AP biology learn-from-home curriculum development team during the pandemic, presented at Hanover County Public Schools' 2018 Inspire Conference, participated in anatomy and physiology curriculum development, and assisted with new AHS teacher orientations.   

Education: Dodds is National Board Certified. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia Tech in 2010 and his Master of Education degree from the University of Richmond in 2015.     

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