Owl Wins $25,000 as a Top Teacher

Owl Wins $25,000 as a Top Teacher

Alumna wins the "Oscars of Teaching," becoming the first Milken Educator Award recipient of the 2019-20 season.

A group of students come in for a group hug to support their award-winning teacher.
Excited students swarm Sepulveda for a group hug. Photo: Milken Family Foundation

Social studies teacher Lauren Sepulveda, ’10, entered the gym prepared for an upbeat but typical morning assembly at Clinton Avenue School in New Haven. Instead she received the surprise of a lifetime when her name was announced as the first recipient of the 2019-20 Milken Education Award and its $25,000 prize. Watch Sepulveda receive the award.

Hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken Educator Awards are designed to “celebrate, elevate, and activate the American teaching profession.” It is not a lifetime achievement award. Instead, the recipients are recognized for exceptional mid-career achievements — and the promise of what they might accomplish given the resources provided with the award.

Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards, made the presentation to a shocked Sepulveda in front of a cheering crowd of students, colleagues, and local and state officials. “Lauren Sepulveda brings history to life by demonstrating how past events have shaped our nation, world, and people today. Students develop a greater understanding of the responsibilities as global citizens and lifelong learners,” said Foley.

Sepulveda, who earned a B.S. in history 7-12 at Southern is the sole award recipient in Connecticut. Nationwide, no more than 40 educators will be honored during the 2019-20 season.

Sepulveda, who teaches seventh and eighth grade, was lauded for efforts to help her students become global thinkers and empathetic citizens. In her classroom, students have met guest speakers who share personal stories of their experiences during World War II, the Korean War, and the Rwandan genocide. Another assignment challenged students to review coverage of the Revolutionary War in their text books — and determine whose perspectives were missing. The students next drafted a new chapter that included the stories of significant minorities. Sepulveda then helped the students submit their work to the text book publisher for consideration for the next edition.

In addition to the cash prize, the award includes networking and mentoring components. Sepulveda will join the other 2019-20 honorees at an all-expenses-paid trip to the Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, to connect with other educational trailblazers. In addition, each 2019 recipient will be paired with a veteran Milken Educator mentor.