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2 Los Angeles-area teachers get high marks with Milken Educator Awards

_kslq4mnc Two Los Angeles-area teachers received the biggest surprise of their careers when they were awarded the Milken Educator Award today.

Roberto Gonzalez of Virgil Middle School and Ana Higuera of Lynwood High School were stunned when Milken Family Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken announced at each campus that they had received the annual award, which comes with a $25,000 no-strings cash prize.

Like all the other teachers and students who piled into Virgil’s auditorium this morning, Gonzalez thought the assembly’s star speaker would be State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, who had ostensibly come to congratulate the school for its marked academic improvement in the last few years. Last year, Virgil’s Academic Performance Index, based on test scores, shot up 56 points to 641.  

“We don’t recognize our hard-working teachers enough,” O’Connell said. “Entertainers have the Academy Awards, the Emmys … this is our recognition.”

Milken said the award is meant to encourage beginning and mid-career teachers in whom they see great potential. The financial award is meant to reward teachers, “who often have to make financial sacrifices” for their chosen career, he said.This year, the foundation will be awarding 54 educators across the United States for exceptional work.

Gonzalez, 28, was chosen for his work combating high teacher turnover and encouraging his students to aim for college degrees, not just high school diplomas.

The science teacher’s voice shook as he thanked his fellow teachers and school administrators for the support they had provided over his seven years at the school.

“I’m sorry I’m crying, because it’s not a good look,” Gonzalez apologized, and the students exploded into cheers.

Higuera also said she was in “complete shock” when Milken awarded her the giant check a little after noon today. Higuera, 33, was also recognized for her work with “mid-level” students who often miss the college-preparatory track.

“I graduated from Lynwood myself so I connect to students,” Higuera said. “I was the first in my family to graduate college. I had no one to guide me – that’s one of the reasons I became a teacher.”

--Amina Khan

Photo: Roberto Gonzalez is surrounded by his students after receiving Milken Family Foundation Award at Virgil Middle School. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Comments () | Archives (9)


It's phenomenal to see good teachers being rewarded. Many times we become sidetracked with things and don't thank teachers for the amount of time and effort they put into students. Of course, there's a lot of teachers that aren't deserving of such an award. However, it's good to see that some teachers are recognized for their superb level of dedication. I thought of some excellent teachers I currently have, and have had in the past, and I'm truly thankful for what they've done for me. They've shaped the way I view life, and they've made me want to excel further and further. Recognition is a thing of beauty.

hes a great teacher i should know congrats to you sr gonzalez keep up the great work thanks for being such a profesional

I'm proud to say that Ms. Higuera has been one of the best teacher's I've ever had and thanks to her I'm soon to be an alumni from UC Berkeley.

thank you Ms. Higuera.

Ms. Higuera was one of my favorite teachers back in high school. The worst thing about her class was when it ended. I'm glad she is being recognized for her efforts.

Congratulations Ms. Higuera. This award was given to the right person. You are hard working, committed and dedicated to your students and this award is letting you know that all of your hard work has not gone unnoticed.

I had the PRIVILEGE of taking Ms. Higuera during my years in Lynwood High School, which is truthfully a school that is rarely recognized for academic achievement. It is because of teachers like Ms. Higuera who are fully dedicated and passionate about the education of students, especially those that are highly underrepresented in places of higher education, that change the lives of students. Personally, Ms. Higuera was the guidance I needed to advance to a 4 year institution and the motivation that was so necessary to survive in this institution. I want to thank her for that and for being committed to teaching at Lynwood High. I also want to, of course, congratulate her and Mr. Gonzalez, who I'm sure is an exceptional teacher as well. Keep up the great work and hopefully more us will be following your footsteps! :)

Ms. Higuera--My UC Berkeley Diploma will have your name on it! :D

Omq ! I' m so proud of Mr. Gonzalez ! We all bursted into cheer when he said that the only reason he stayed was because he truly did beleive we have a qood future ahead of us . The tears were no reason to be ashamed Mr . ! We love you ! <3 You did a good job in oder to acheive that outstanding award .

Proud former student of Mr. Gonzalez! Most amazing teacher ever!


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